The finals of the MCIAC football championship were held on a frigid Friday night at Booster Stadium, with the boys from West Port Forest beating 3-1 while the Vanguard girls beating Forest 2-0.
This is the second consecutive year that West Port, which improved to 11-2-1, defeated Forest as the best boys’ soccer team in the province.
“What a great game,” said West Port coach Robert Boland. “I can’t say enough good things about not just my program but Forest. That’s a quality team with a quality program and I know those guys are hurting because nobody wants to lose, especially not over a championship game. Every time we go to Forest playing and winning it gives us momentum.”
The loss dropped FHS to 11-5-1.
“A great game with great teams,” said Wildcats coach Jason Wigginton. “The better team won tonight. I gave our boys everything I expected and I am very proud of them. We are a young team and West Port better watch out next year.”
Forest started scoring when sophomore Bradley Wigginton fired a laser from 25 yards that found the back of the net to give the Class 6A Wildcats a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the game.
WPHS responded when senior Anibal Munoz scored on an incredible acrobatic goal from 30 yards to put the game on 1 after 26 minutes of the first half.
The Class 7A Wolf Pack continued to attack, and it paid off when senior right winger Max Maysonet collected a stunning through ball from Gustavo Maldonado and drove a shot past the ranger from 15 yards for a 2-1 lead late in the first half.
Both teams had good scoring opportunities in the second half, but were unable to convert them.
West Port extended their lead when Forest was called up for a foul in the penalty area and Munoz calmed down a penalty in the bottom left corner to give the Wolf Pack a 3-1 lead with 3:50 left in the game.
Forest, desperate to score, went on the attack and had several chances wide of their target.
Time ran out in the well played and physical match with West Port players celebrating the final whistle.
“Back-to-back,” said a delighted Boland. “I felt like we had the game under control for the rest of the first half after they scored and the second half it started to open up for both teams. It was back and forth and I’m glad we could put the penalty in the back of the net.”
West Port returns to action on Thursday night when the Wolf Pack hosts Trinity Catholic. Forest hosts The Villages Charter School on Tuesday.
In the girls final, Vanguard junior midfielder Marleigh Martinez scored both goals to lead the Knights to a 2-0 win against Forest to claim the provincial championship.
The win improved Vanguard to 9-4 on the season.
“It feels great to win and we have a special team,” said Vanguard coach Bryan Giles. “We knew we had to play our best game and it certainly looked like we did. Marleigh is an all round player, runs beautifully across the pitch, has a good view and to see her score two goals tonight is special .”
Both teams had excellent scoring opportunities in the first half, but neither capitalized and they went into halftime with a goalless draw.
Vanguard broke through when Martinez collected a rebound from a shot and kicked it past the Forest keeper to give the Knights a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
Forest had several chances to equalize, but Vanguard goalkeeper Jenna Walker was ready and stopped the attempts.
Vanguard extended the lead when Martinez got a nice through ball and fired it into the bottom right part of the goal to make it 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the game.
Forest, who defeated Vanguard earlier in the season, tried desperately to score, but the Knights defense held the Wildcats at bay to seal the provincial championship.
“It feels great,” Martinez said. “I’ve played with a lot of these girls since I was nine, and we have some rivalry and it’s very special to be able to win. This win is a confidence boost and gives us momentum as we move into the district tournament.”
Vanguard will receive North Marion on Tuesday. The Knights begin playing in the District 5-5A tournament the following week.
“This is a good win and sets us up for playing district tournaments,” Giles said. “Hopefully we can put things together and see through this thing.”
Forest, which fell to 8-7-1, will play in West Port on Tuesday-evening. The Wildcats will begin play in the District 4-6A tournament the following week.