BARTRAM TRAIL –After stunning area soccer fans Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime semifinal victory over district top seed, ranked No. 1 nationally, defending Class 4A champion Fleming Island, the …
BARTRAM TRAIL –After stunning area soccer fans Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime semifinal victory over district top seed, ranked No. 1 nationally, defending Class 4A champion Fleming Island, the question would be “Could the Oakleaf Knights keep that level of intensity and face off against the Creekside Knights Friday night?
Answer: Oakleaf High senior forward Albert Cooper.
“Two nights ago we found success beating Fleming for the first time in school history, then tonight we win the district title.” said Cooper. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”
In an extremely physical match that saw both teams draw multiple yellow cards, Oakleaf came ready to play and rocked Creekside back on their heels with an all-out offensive blitz that Creekside couldn’t answer. As the clock hit zeros, Oakleaf amassed a 2-0 victory to make school history with a first ever district boys soccer.
Creekside beat host Bartram Trail 1-0 on Wednesday to advance to the final. Oakleaf heads to the region playoffs with a home match against district 3-3A runnerup Fletcher (19-1-2), who also suffered their first loss in the district final; an overtime shootout 4-1 loss to Atlantic Coast High School. Ironically, Fleming Island tied Fletcher 2-2 on Fri., Jan. 26 with both teams maintaining unbeaten regular season records.
On a night when Oakleaf’s first-year head coach Matt Holyoke had a commitment out of state that he could not get out of, assistant coach James Bayles took the reins and never looked back.
Pre-game, Bayles reminded the Knights of their epic situation.
“Boys- listen; you have a chance to do something that’s never been done in Oakleaf High School,” said Bayles. “In 30 years from now at the reunion, that trophy will be sitting in the display case with your names on it. That’s something no one else can say. Your name is on the first district champion’s trophy.”
With 53 seconds left to play in the first half, it was Cooper breaking free and driving to the goal hard and ripped off a shot. A Creekside defender was hit with the ball and Cooper picked up the ricochet, fired, and blasted the ball past the keeper’s left side giving Oakleaf a 1-0 lead just before the halftime break.
“After 20 minutes and we didn’t score, I was kind of anxious, but then we kept getting chances.” Cooper said. “I just thought, okay; they’ll come. Then I kept crashing the ball, I took a shot, the defender hit it, it hit my leg and went in and I was surprised; it was just meant to be.”
At the water break of the second half, with 19:11 left in the game, Oakleaf held Creekside to not getting off a single shot on goal. On the offensive side, Oakleaf continued to pound inside with lob passes, trying to get inside the Creekside defense. After the 20 minutes water break, Creekside switched to more traditional tactics, dropped the “door bolt” defense and went on a serious attack. Only a minute after the break, Creekside finally had two hard attacks on Oakleaf.
Oakleaf goalkeeper senior Carlos Acosta made several brilliant saves, getting airborne several times and showing his speed and quickness as he knocked shots away and kept the frustration level up on Creekside.
“After that first shot, I’m thinking, I’m not letting anything by me tonight.” said Acosta. “I’m thinking I’m very confident in my abilities as (well as) in my team, that we can pull it off. You can see with the results, we did exactly what we needed to do. I did what I had to do to make the saves tonight.”
With 13:42 remaining Cooper got the ball over to senior Andrew Henderson, who saw junior Braden Ammon wide open. Ammon fired the cannon and the ball sailed just over the net. While this attack failed, it set up the next drive where this time Ammon repaid the favor. As Ammon drove hard down the side of the field, he drew two Creekside defenders. When he looked across field, Henderson was left uncovered. As the ball sailed across, Henderson positioned himself, set his leg and fired, blasting it past the Creekside keeper’s left side.
“We knew that they were going to play like that strong defensive front.” Said Henderson. “Once we were a goal up and we saw they were sitting back we were taking all the time we could.” I saw the ball coming, then a defender coming at me hard and I saw the space behind him. One big touch. I do it all the time in practice. It’s the easiest touch in the game. One touch and it’s through, then it’s over.”