SaberCats Soccer Reaches finals in Ft. Smith for the First Time
The SaberCats soccer team traveled to Ft. Smith Arkansas on March 1, 2018 to take on some of Arkansas’ best high school teams in an early season tournament to prepare for the season ahead. The team left out on Thursday and ran through a short training session that evening at Southside High School. Friday evening the SaberCats faced off against a talented Fayetteville High School team in a difficult end-to-end affair that remained scoreless most of the game. Both teams created a few half chances, but neither could break down the back line and find enough space to be seriously dangerous. The starting back line for Southmoore was made up of Mason Howell (left back), Coby Howe (center back), Ryan Huerta (center back), and Jordan Morrison (right back). The four young men did well to shut down a typically dangerous front line from Fayetteville. Holding midfielder, Coleman Little, had an exceptional game protecting the back line and controlling the midfield. Southmoore started the match with two freshmen, Cameron Little and Caiden Zehr, and two sophomores, Kevin Avalos and Jordan Morrison, and all four played like they were experienced veterans. One freshmen, Caiden Zehr, stood out in the match as he scored his first varsity goal and the game winner to put Southmoore through to the semi-finals. Zehr found the ball just outside the final third and played a beautiful penetrating pass into senior Kevin Ramirez on the right wing. Ramirez beat two Fayetteville defenders on the dribble before sliding the ball back across the 18 to Zehr who hit it first time into the left upper 90 with very little time left on the clock. As Fayetteville chased the game and sent waves of attack back at Southmoore, the back line and midfield again stood tall and turned away each effort in composed fashion. Junior goalkeeper, Moises Soto, made an incredible save late to preserve the lead.
In Southmoore’s second match, they were paired with a Northside High School team that is a perennial powerhouse in Arkansas and have been the team to knock the SaberCats out of the semi-finals for each of the last two years in this competition. Not this year. Early on, Northside controlled possession but could not create any clear chances. The back line again remained composed and kept Northside away from their goal apart from one or two half chances which Soto saved easily. In the second half, Soto came to the rescue on two occasions making some impressive saves as the game changed from a midfield-dominated first half to an end-to-end flourish of attacks in the second. Still scoreless, Southmoore front line, Kevin Avalos, Kevin Ramirez, and Caiden Zehr, unlocked the Nothside back four several times, hitting the post once. After coming close, Northside were then forced to clear the ball off the line on three occasions, two of which were mere inches from being goals. Tensions rose as regulation came to a close and the SaberCats took Northside into a penalty shootout. Goalkeeper, Moises Soto, could not be held quiet in the shootout as he saved two Northside penalties and came close on another. The Little brothers and Morrison all scored their respective penalty shots and the game was won when senior midfielder, Matt Outon, slotted away the winning PK and sent Southmoore into the final for the first time in Ft. Smith.
A few hours later, the SaberCats took on Springdale High School in the final. Springdale is an impressive club this year with high expectations for 2018. The favorites for a conference championship and run at the state title were a little too much for SaberCats in the final’s opening minutes as their star forward and Div. I signee scored a hat trick of goals inside the first 12 minutes. Down 3-nil, the SaberCats fought back and closed Springdale’s star man off for the remainder of the game, keeping him quiet thereafter, but the damage was done. Southmoore came close to goal several times and could have gotten back into the game on a few occasions, but were a little unlucky and could not find the back of the net to start a comeback.
Overall, a very successful weekend in Arkansas for the SaberCats as they reached the final for the first time against some very stiff competition and performed well throughout, minus the 12 minutes at the beginning of the game in the final. Head Coach, Kit Stephenson, said of the tournament, “It was an important weekend for the team. We come here to win, obviously, but the point of the trip is to work out the kinks away from Oklahoma and get the new guys important minutes ahead of a long season. We have a very difficult conference and a maybe the deepest district in the state so these tough games against talented teams are important to prepare for that. Plus, we learned a lot about some players this weekend which is a big deal after graduating so many talented players last year. Caiden Zehr is just a freshman and played great – scored a game winner. The coaching staff is proud of the boys tonight.”
Southmoore will face Norman on 3/6, followed by Deer Creek, Westmoore, and Edmond Santa Fe over the next two weeks.