Ankeny’s Charlie Pritchard likes to celebrate big goals with a backflip.
On Tuesday, the senior forward scored perhaps the biggest goal of his high school soccer career.
Pritchard dribbled down the left side of the field and fought off two defenders before finding the back of the net in the 67th minute to give the 14th-ranked Hawks a 2-1 victory at No. 5 Ankeny Centennial. It was the 12th goal of the season for Pritchard, who still had enough energy left to do a backflip.
“I love it,” Pritchard said of his trademark celebration.
The win was Ankeny’s fourth in a row in the crosstown rivalry. Pritchard and the other Hawk seniors will finish their careers with an unbeaten record against Centennial, barring another matchup at the state tournament.
“It’s amazing,” said Ankeny senior Riley Wood, who scored the Hawks’ other goal. “Four and oh, baby!”
Ankeny improved to 2-2 in the CIML Central Conference and 8-5 overall. The loss dropped Centennial’s records to 3-1 and 12-3, preventing the Jaguars from clinching at least a share of the league title.
Centennial fell into a first-place tie with No. 6 Urbandale and No. 15 Johnston. The Jaguars will host Urbandale in their conference finale on Friday, while the Dragons will visit Ankeny.
“Tough result tonight,” Centennial coach Brian Duax tweeted after the loss. “Ball didn’t bounce our way. Learn from it, (and) let it drive you for the rest of the season.”
Ankeny coach Jordan Burns was ecstatic about his team’s rally from an early 1-0 deficit. He challenged the Hawks to play harder at halftime.
“I really asked the boys to dig deep,” he said. “I tell you, my guys’ effort tonight…their heart, the desire and their mentality–that was one of the words that I stuck on the board today was mentality. And by God, they brought mentality today. It was fantastic–absolutely fantastic.”
The Hawks got the equalizer in the 45th minute from Wood, who scored his third career goal against Centennial. He fired a rocket from about 25 yards out for his first goal of the season.
“I had to dribble through one (defender) and take a foul, then just found the goal I guess,” said Wood, who sat out part of the first half after receiving a yellow card. “I laced it.”
Pritchard was inspired by Wood’s strike. About 22 minutes later, he had an opportunity to make a play of his own, and that’s what he did.
“Riley hit an absolute stunner of a goal, and I just knew once I got the ball through there was just nothing else on my mind except, ‘This is going in the net,'” Pritchard said. “We got outworked in the first half, but we just knew we had to outwork them and then everything else would fall into place.”
Centennial almost tied the game in the final minute, but a header by Hajrudin Besic sailed just over the crossbar.
“It’s a tough loss to take,” said Centennial senior Will Overberg. “I think we learned what intensity we need to bring to games for the rest of the year. We brought a high level in the first half and it showed, but our intensity dropped a bit after half and they took advantage. I still feel we have the best squad in the state and have no doubt we’ll rebound. We’ve worked too hard not to.”
The Jaguars took the lead less than 3 minutes into the game when Overberg dribbled down the middle of the field and then fired a pass to Cole Vincent, who beat Ankeny goalkeeper Zach Young for his third goal of the season.
But Centennial never again found the net.
“We were told to never give up, and that’s what we did,” Wood said. “So we came back and got the two (goals). We’re not always the best team, but I guess it comes down to motivation at the end.”
Burns said it comes down to his best players making plays.
“What a great strike by Riley, and again our big players stepped up with Charlie scoring, too,” he said. “I’ve said it time and time again. When our big players step up, nine times out of 10 we win the game.”
Pritchard attributed the win to the Hawks’ never-say-die culture.
“When we first had the split (into two high schools), I know Centennial was winning,” he said. “But since our freshman year, we really adapted to the culture. We believed and were all in. Jordan is an amazing coach, and we believed in him and we’re all on the same page. At the end of the day, it’s just (a matter of) who wants it more.
“And we want it more,” he added.