It wasn’t a parade, but the Warren County Middle School soccer team sure marched through its competition this year.
The Pioneers punctuated an undefeated season in the conference championship game Saturday with a surprisingly dominant victory over Shelbyville. WCMS scored a minute into the game and was never seriously challenged in gaining a 5-0 victory over Shelbyville Harris.
It marks the third straight conference championship for the Pioneers, allowing a group of eighth-graders to end their middle school careers with nothing but titles.
Jalen Haston, F.D. de Santiago, John Jackson, Edgar Lopez, and Alex Pullon all scored for the Pioneers.
“Our theme this year was to be relentless and this team never quit,” said WCMS coach Matt Jackson. “To beat Shelbyville 5-0 in the championship is amazing. This is definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever coached.”
The Pioneers captured an 8-0 win over Coffee County on Saturday morning to advance to the championship game Saturday afternoon. The Pioneer defense didn’t allow a goal in the tournament and held Shelbyville to only a handful of legitimate shots in the finals.
“Warren County was the better team,” admitted Shelbyville coach Frankie Swing. “Their set plays and their crosses were just tremendous, the best I’ve seen at this level and I’ve been coaching for a lot of years. I thought we were able to play with them in the field, but their set plays were the difference. And they have so much speed on defense, we didn’t get to take advantage of our thru balls the way we usually do.”
Soccer is a game where field players can’t use their hands, but there’s no rule against using your head. WCMS scored its first three goals on head shots, all coming off kicks from Daniel Castro, who had a sparkling championship game.
The first goal came one minute into the game off a Castro corner kick. He placed the ball high and right in front of the goal. Haston was able to get his head on the kick and redirect it into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
It was almost an identical play 10 minutes later with Castro again launching a looping corner kick. The Shelbyville goalie was determined to swat the ball away but it just slipped over the top of his fingers and de Santiago was there to head it into the back of the net, 2-0.
The score remained unchanged the rest of the first half with perhaps Shelbyville’s best chance of scoring just missing. A hard shot glanced off the crossbar minutes before halftime.
Defensive anchor Joshua Macanas provided an offensive spark when he was moved to striker midway through the second half. Macanas was able to dribble past a defender on the right wing but was shoved down hard on his way to the goal resulting in a penalty. He was injured on the play and did not return.
Castro took the free kick from just outside the box and placed another beauty right in front of the goal. Jackson swooped in from the back side and was able to head it past the goalie, 3-0.
Lopez scored on a wild play in front of the Shelbyville net. With Harris defenders trying frantically to clear the ball, one managed to get a clean kick. The problem was he kicked it right at a charging Lopez. The ball ricocheted off his legs and into the goal, 4-0.
Pullon, known for his all-out hustle, applied the finishing touches when he outraced a defender to the ball. The Harris keeper came out of the goal to force the action, but Pullon was able to squeeze a slow-rolling shot just past his arms. The ball nudged the goalpost and trickled across the line, 5-0.
After the awards presentation, the Pioneers took turns getting pictures taken with the championship trophy, some individually and some in small groups. The eighth-graders who have been together for three straight championships came together for a group photo to celebrate three titles in three years.