As the Stratford-Mount de Sales soccer game Saturday finally came to an end after the first overtime period, Eagles head coach James Jordan and Cavaliers head coach Iain Jones embraced for what might be the final time on a soccer field.
The two coaches had a classic to talk about, as it took 81 minutes for Morgan Sowell to finally break loose for a goal and then the Eagles’ defense held on, giving Stratford its fifth GISA Class AAA championship in the past six years by a 1-0 score.
“I told him what a great job he did in this game and what a great coach he is,” Jordan said of his conversation with Jones. “He came out with the plan to counter attack us, and he took away our offense. He matched our speed with his speed, and it was just a great game plan.
“But great teams find ways to win close games, and great players like Morgan Sowell find ways to get it done when they need to.”
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Jordan, who will head to Texas to be a middle school principal in July, was able to find a way to get his sixth straight win over Mount de Sales, but it was not as easy as the two earlier games this year. Sowell was looking at three defenders every time he turned around, which left Thomas Traynam to get looks. Bur Cavaliers goalkeeper Callen Craig was up to the task for the entire game until the overtime period.
The final five minutes of regular time featured threats from both teams, and Sowell actually scored as time expired. As Eagles fans charged the field, the referees ruled that Sowell had been offside, and the game headed to overtime.
Sowell took little time to score in the extra period as he took a pass and flicked the ball over Craig’s head for the winning goal.
“I just had to keep working hard, and that was one of the few good chances I had all night,” Sowell said of his game-winner. “Mount de Sales played us so tough the entire game, and there were times when I wondered whether or not we would win, but I always say that we are in better shape than any team we play.
“I think that showed on the last goal because maybe the defenders weren’t quite where they needed to be.”
Jordan pointed to the play of his keeper, John Clark, as a key.
"He was definitely the X-factor in this game," Jordan said. "He came up with several huge saves, especially late in the game when one goal would have been so huge. It's only his second year of playing soccer, and it was amazing how big he was."
The loss was bittersweet for Jones.
“I feel terrible for my team who came out and executed the game plan,” Jones said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from what I got from them. A year ago, they wouldn’t have bought into what we were doing, but this just shows how much they have grown up.”
When asked what it felt like to coach for the final time against Jordan, Jones had to choke back tears.
“I am going to miss it, no doubt about that,” Jones said. “He has made me a much better coach. We are very close, and it will be very different not seeing him on the Stratford sideline. I wish him all the best, and I am sure we will stay close friends.”