This one was for Russ
Cubs claim emotional district championship
For the ninth consecutive time and 10th time in school history, the Monett soccer team can call itself district champion.
The Cubs overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit, scoring two goals in the the first four minutes of the second half to go on and claim a 3-2 win over Logan-Rogersville in the Class 2, District 4 title game Thursday in Aurora.
“Heart — that was the difference tonight,” said Cristobal Villa, Monett coach. “Hard work, focus and the tradition this program has built all over the years helped us tonight and made all the difference. We had no pressure. We came here to have fun and just play.”
Emotions were high for multiple reasons.
First, the Cubs lost to the Wildcats, 1-0, during the regular season, marking the only time Monett was shut out this season. Secondly, and what loomed larger, was that the Cubs were still mourning the sudden passing of Superintendent Russ Moreland.
Villa thanked the Rogersville and host school Aurora administrations for both being willing to postpone the game 24 hours from Wednesday to Thursday to allow the team and coaches a chance to grieve and come together.
“We talked before the game, and we dedicated this game to Mr. Russ Moreland, who is flying high right now,” Villa said. “This [win] goes to him, to his family, to the students and to the staff. We are going to continue to play for him. Regardless of the outcome tonight, we were going to play for him.
“I had a great relationship with Russ. He gave me great support. We were sad, we are sad and to get this win tonight and send it his way, man, words can’t explain it.”
The game lived up to the hype.
The Wildcats won the first half with five shots on goal and Sage Ballard breaking the deadlock with a goal with 6 minutes remaining in the half. The 1-0 edge held to intermission.
“I told our guys at halftime that the first half was over and that we just needed to get back to being the team that we are,” Villa said. “The second half, we looked the calmed team. We were more aggressive and played loose.”
Whatever the coach said at halftime resonated with the Cubs as Monett’s brother duo of Jony Perez and Roberto Perez scored goals in the first four minutes to give Monett a quick 2-1 edge. The Cubs limited the Wildcats to just two shots on goal on the second half.
Things did get chippy in the second half, with officials issuing a verbal warning to Wildcats’ fans, and then 3 minutes later, a scuffle broke out that resulted in red cards and two players being ejected from the game.
After things calmed down, both teams finished the game 10-on-10, and 1 minute later Alejandro scored to make it 3-1.
Ballard tightened things up with 6 minutes remaining with his second goal of the game, but Monett was able to run out the remaining time to secure the victory.
“When we went up 3-1, I knew we had to kill time,” Villa said. “They are a great team, and we had too much time left for us to relax.”
Monett will host the quarterfinal round on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Against Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day (MICDS).