Lufkin Captures East Texas’ First State Soccer Championship With 3-1 Defeat Of Georgetown East View
GEORGETOWN -- The University Interscholastic League staff tried frantically to maintain some semblance of order on the Lufkin sideline.
It was a lost cause. The Panthers had just accomplished something no East Texas school had done before: a state soccer championship.
Omar Zamarripa scored two goals and set up another in Lufkin's 3-1 win over previously unbeaten Georgetown East View in the Class 5A state title game Saturday afternoon at Birkelbach Field.
Since the UIL began sanctioning a state soccer tournament in 1983, only three teams from the region had ever appeared in the finals. But none of the three were able to finish the job.
"It's sinking in right now," said coach Russell Shaw, who's been coaching in Lufkin for 29 years. "It's the most awesome feeling, it's the pinnacle of our profession, or our sport. What a team, what a team.
"It took me a while. We've had lots of great kids, we've had lots of good teams. This is for all of them, this is the pinnacle."
Lufkin was making its first-ever appearance at the state tournament, but Shaw believed in his team from the very beginning of the season.
"Believe it or not, we talked about state championship (before the season), and that was our goal from the very beginning," he said. "We knew that it was a long ways off, but along the way kept thinking about it. This team just would not be denied, and about halfway through the season, we thought 'yeah, we had a good shot.'"
The belief may have always been there, but some of it could have disappeared after Lufkin's first three matches of the season -- losses to Duncanville and The Woodlands College Park and tie with Klein Collins.
All Lufkin (26-2-1) did from that point on was reel off 26 consecutive victories.
"Ever since the season started we knew we had a good team," said Zamarripa, who was voted the championship game's Most Valuable Player. "Those first three games, I'm glad they happened because it woke us up."
Just as it had done in Thursday's 1-0 semifinal win over Tomball Memorial, Lufkin put its defenders to work. Aside from a Lars Matthews' re-directed header off a 53-yard free kick midway through the opening half, the Panthers' defense wasn't taking any chances against East View (26-1-1).
"We knew that they were a quick counter offense, and knew that they would love to throw numbers up and catch us off-guard," said Lufkin defender and team captain Jake Williams. "So we knew as soon as we got the ball, put it out, and our offense would do their work and put the ball in the back of the net."
Lufkin's offense dominated most of the match as the Panthers finished with a 5-2 edge in shots on goal.
"They had a lot of size and they're very quick," Shaw said of East View. "We just wanted to get the ball forward, put pressure on their defense, and just be strong to their counter-attack."
With Lufkin clinging to a 2-1 lead entering the second half, the Panthers tried desperately to put distance between themselves and East View in the final 40 minutes.
But it wasn't until 65th minute that Lufkin achieved what it was after.
Zamarripa dribbled the ball upfield and was one-on-one with an East View defender. The senior forward side-stepped him, and took a shot, which slid past diving Patriots keeper Brendan Soto.
"i just felt the moment and I felt like I had to do that, and I'm so glad it happened," Zamarripa said.
Williams had a nice view of the game-clinching goal.
"We were in the back coming up after we just cleared it, and as soon as I saw him make his move, I knew it was going in. I knew he had it," he said.
Lufkin grabbed the game's first lead in the 14th minute. Williams' throw-in nicked the head of Panthers forward Javier Patlan and found the leg of Zamarippa, who blasted it through for a 1-0 advantage.
East View notched the equalizer six minutes later when Shawn Moynihan's free kick from 53 yards out was headed in by Matthews, evening the game, 1-1, with 20:13 remaining until halftime.
Zamarippa had a hand in Lufkin's go-ahead goal in the 28th minute. His free kick from 36 yards out was misplayed by the East View goalie, and junior defender Kacy Bennett headed in the loose ball into an empty net.
"We knew it was going to be about set pieces, both teams were very strong in that area," Shaw said. "And when they scored, we were prepared for that because last week in the regional tournament we faced all these things. And it was just another step."
Lufkin's defense put the clamps on East View from that point forward, and all that was left for the Panthers was the celebration of the school's first state championship in a team sport since the Lufkin football team captured the title in 2001.
It was 29 years in the making for Shaw.
"Everything was for him," Williams said of his coach. "He prepared us ever since August, he's been on us. We knew coming in that this was for him. We knew that he needed it and we needed it."