By Jeffery Armstrong
The dream season for the Morrow Mustangs boys soccer team continues.
The Mustangs played aggressively on defense and took advantage of great field position to defeat the Lovejoy Wildcats 2-0 in the first round of the boys Class AAAAA state playoffs Wednesday evening at Twelve Oaks Stadium. It was Morrow's second state playoff soccer win in school history. Morrow advances to a second-round state playoff game slated for Wednesday, May 4.
"People don't realize that this is a talented team," said Morrow junior soccer player Rod Florence, who along with Luis Ramos excelled on the defensive end. "We focus on defense and as long as you stress defense first, you have a chance to win."
Morrow, the Region 2-AAAAA champion, improves to 16-1-1 and got a measure of revenge against the only team to defeat them this season. Lovejoy beat Morrow 3-0 during the regular season, a win that snapped Morrow's 11-game winning streak, one of several school records set by this year's Mustangs team.
"Our backs were to the wall and the kids stepped up tonight. I'm so proud of my team and how they played," said Morrow head coach Martin Wood. "I think Lovejoy thought we would be pushovers, but nobody pushes us over. We may win or we may lose, but we will not be pushed over."
Lovejoy certainly couldn't push over Morrow senior soccer player Luis Bejar, who dazzled the small crowd in attendance with a variety of dribble moves and seemed to be a thorn in Lovejoy's side all evening. Bejar and several of his teammates had plenty of line-drive shots on goal in the first half, but it was Bejar's seeing-eye goal early that set the tone for the game. Bejar hit a soft shot that looked like an easy catch for Lovejoy goalkeeper Matias Ferreria but somehow the ball went right through his hands and into the net for the 1-0 lead.
"I think that goal got us down. We just weren't the same after that," said Lovejoy head coach Kendra Sewell. "I also think we were too hyper for this game. We were running around like crazy."
Lovejoy just couldn't run past the Morrow defense much in the game. When the Wildcats did get close enough to score, Morrow goalkeeper Thai Tran kept them at bay with great saves - some he snagged out of the air and many were deflected.
"The team winning is my top priority. I didn't want to let them down by allowing goals," Tran said. "This was nice to get revenge on the team that beat us - we showed them what we can do as a team."
Early in the second half, Bejar made some more nice moves and got Lovejoy keeper David McHone to commit, then blew a shot right by him into the net for the 2-0 lead. The lead could've been more as Bejar had a couple of opportunities to score due to his good moves, but Lovejoy's Malachi Bussey made great hustle plays on defense, knocking the ball away from Bejar to help out McHone. Lovejoy's Leavell Smith and Steven Dolbeer had some shots on goal late in the second half, but they either went over the net, were caught by Tran or went wide of the net.
"It's a great feeling to win," Bejar said. "Even though I scored both goals, it was a total team effort today."