Wolverines prevail in explosive state final
Engaged in battle with Wally Wolverine, Neptune hoisted his trident and plunged it straight into his foot.
The Tahoe-Truckee Wolverines defeated the North Tahoe Lakers at Spring Creek Saturday, 2-1, and are the NIAA/U.S. Bank Nevada State Champions.
The win reclaimed the championship title for the Wolverines who’ve met and lost to the Lakers in the state finals for the last two years.
The victory, however, is clouded by questionable calls – according to North Tahoe Head Coach Mike Simon – and the subsequent self-destruction of the Laker team.
“I’ve never seen such a response to one game,” said Commissioner of the Northern Nevada Officials Association, Jay Beesemyer, whose office has been flooded with angry letters and videotapes of the game from North Tahoe parents. “It’s pretty unfortunate. It looks as though there was a lot of poor sportsmanship displayed.”
“The game was too emotional for either team to play well,” Truckee Head Coach Mike Holman said. “I kept telling the team, if you guys can keep your composure, then you’re going to win.”
Five North Tahoe players received red cards and the team received nine yellow cards. Simon was given a red card and was ejected from the game about midway through the first half.
“We’re still kind of in bewilderment over here,” Simon said. “Everything was just kind of stripped by the man in black. It was a travesty of a game.”
There was little indication of how the game would progress in the early going.
Conor Caulkette scored on a perfectly placed shot into the lower left hand corner of the goal during the 13th minute, putting the Lakers ahead 1-0.
Two minutes later, the Wolverines were handicapped when Juan Aguilar (the league’s defensive MVP) was given a yellow card and had to be pulled. Holman was playing a precautionary game.
“We knew it was going to be a super emotional game,” Holman said. “The guy who won was going to be the one who was emotionally prepared.”
Following Aguilar’s call, the Lakers’ plight began to present itself. Caulkette was issued a yellow card on a call in which he legitimately created a hole in the Wolverine wall during a direct kick, according to Simon. Later, the Lakers’ goalie was charged with a handball.
The handball set up a direct kick. Elias Silver took the shot which Tahoe goalie Eric Mumbert effectively deflected over the end line. Silver received the ensuing corner kick and hammered home a goal.
Caulkette was given a second yellow card after taking down Chris Holman at midfield, and was ejected from the game. Will Wolford, another of North Tahoe’s stars, collided with Truckee’s Gabe Valle [the league’s MVP at the keeper position] and separated his shoulder. Wolford returned after the shoulder was popped back into place, but will require surgery.
“Our game plan, as coaches, was to sit back and let 11 seniors fulfill a high school dream,” Simon said. “Not long into the game, that plan was out the window.”
North Tahoe’s fans and coaches by this time were incensed.
Simon, prompted by the ejection of Caulkette, according to Truckee coaches, taunted the referee, insisting he himself be issued a red card. Simon, in his three years of coaching at North Tahoe, had never been issued a penalty card.
“I think getting himself thrown out of the game was instrumental,” said Truckee Head Coach Mike Holman. “The whole complexion of the game changed. That’s when his team stopped playing soccer and started playing emotional. [Simon] wasn’t showing respect for the referees and his team quit showing respect. His players started to feel cheated.”
Simon said that there was a method to his madness. He hoped that the gesture would motivate his team meanwhile convincing the referee that enough “damage had been done.” Simon also said he had faith in his assistant coach John Wojcik’s game plan, which involved less coaching and more senior intuition.
“In retrospect,” Simon said, “I wish I wouldn’t have taken the red.”
The score was tied 1-1 at halftime.
Five minutes into the second half, left outside midfielder Fernando Gonzales took a pass from Jarrett Bower and placed a shot into the net for Truckee’s game winning score.
The goal seemed to deflate the Lakers, said Truckee assistant coach Pete Werbel, and three more North Tahoe players were red carded for back-talking and disrespect to the referees.
By game’s end, the Lakers’ roster had been reduced to eight players.
“I don’t hold any ill feelings toward Truckee,” Simon said, “They just kept playing, it was all they could do. They’re at no fault. I honestly can’t digest (the officiating), though … it was ridiculous.”
“There’s probably not a center in the state that could’ve pulled that game off,” Truckee Head Coach Mike Holman said of the game’s officiating. “There were definitely some miscalls made, but they did everything in their power to keep the game sane.”
“We’re happy we won,” said Werbel. “We’re not giving back the championship. The victory would’ve been much sweeter if the game had ended with 11 versus 11, though. It was a little bittersweet.”
When asked about the chance of a recension and subsequent rematch, Beesemyer said “I would say it’s about a 0.01-percent chance. Probably 0.00.”
Truckee put together a complete team effort to defeat Meadows in the semi-finals.
Gene Moniz, playing right fullback, totally shut down his Meadows striker, playing his best game of the season, according to Truckee assistant coach, Pete Werbel. Curtis Donaldson anchored the Wolverine defense.
The scoring opened in the 36th minute when Aguilar took a pass up the left side, past two defenders, and launched a 35-yard shot into the goal.
With only 38 seconds gone in the second half, Bower scored to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
Chris Waller scored Truckee’s final goal of the game with a highlight-film quality header into the net off a pass from Travis Spencer.
Truckee outshot Meadows 35-5 and Valle recorded his 14th shutout of the season.
“These last four or five games,” Holman said, “these kids knew that no one was going to beat them.”
With only a handful of seniors on the team, Truckee promises to have more success in the future.
“We’ve got a great bunch of kids on the team now and the JV team is very strong,” said Holman. “I think we’ll be bringing the championship home for a while.”
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