Even with a sore back, Ankeny Centennial’s Rashidi Ishibwami could not contain his excitement following Wednesday’s Class 3A substate final against the visiting Des Moines Hoover boys’ soccer team.
Ishibwami scored a goal in the first half and the fifth-ranked Jaguars overcame the rainy conditions to post a 2-1 victory that allowed them to qualify for the state tournament for the second straight year.
“It feels so good!” said Ishibwami, a junior forward. “It’s my first time going to state (after transferring from Des Moines Roosevelt), and I’m just so happy we were able to do this. The weather wasn’t so good, but it just feels so good.”
The Jaguars (15-3) earned their third trip to state under coach Brian Duax. They also qualified in 2018, when they lost to Iowa City West in overtime in a Class 3A quarterfinal.
Fifth-seeded Centennial will play fourth-seeded Urbandale (16-3) on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on Field 7 at Cownie Park.
“It always feels good to go to state,” said Duax. “It’s difficult to get to that final eight–it’s always tough–and the weather didn’t help against a very game Hoover side tonight for sure.”
The Huskies finished the season at 16-5.
“It’s the first day of summer for us seniors, and it’s not ideal,” Centennial’s Evan Larson said of the wet conditions. “It was a tough game to play technically with the rain and the wind, but we just had to overcome that adversity and I think we did that pretty well tonight.”
Ishibwami gave Centennial a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute when he scored his team-leading 22nd goal off an assist by Jackson Helmkamp. Just a few minutes earlier, Ishibwami had hit the left post with another shot.
“We were chasing a goal, and we had the wind and the rain (behind us) in the first half,” Ishibwami said.
Shortly before halftime, Ishibwami was helped off the field after being fouled by a Hoover player, resulting in a yellow card for the Huskies.
“Somebody kneed me in my lower back,” Ishibwami said. “That kind of hurt me a little bit. And then when I went back in, I couldn’t move as good. But I’ll be fine.”
The Jaguars maintained their lead until late in the second half, when Hoover scored an equalizer off a corner kick. Sophomore Ben Musengo headed the ball past Centennial goalkeeper Andrew Nelson and into the net in the 68th minute.
“Momentum was definitely on their side,” Duax said. “But we’ve got a really resilient bunch that just continues to battle and wants to get better, and I thought we could score again. And we did.”
Less than a minute later, sophomore Braden Thiele found the net for the winning goal. It was just his second goal of the season.
“We went down (the field) pretty quickly,” Thiele said. “We’re amazing on counter attacks. Both of my goals (this year) were off passes from Andrew Heckenlaible. He gave me a great ball, and I just finished it off.”
Thiele said he wasn’t concerned after Musengo’s tying goal.
“I congratulated the guy when we were standing at half,” Thiele said. “I was expecting us to come right back. I wasn’t worried at all.”
Larson had confidence in the Jaguars as well.
“It’s how you respond,” he said. “Coach Duax always says, ‘It’s not how you lose the ball, it’s how you react after you lose the ball.’ I think we really showed our grit and determination tonight.”
The Huskies had a couple of chances to score in the final 10 minutes, but Centennial held on for the win.
“It’s awesome,” Larson said. “We’ve been working for this all season, and our end goal is that June 4 date (to play in the championship game). We’re going to keep going from here. Hoover is a great side, and they showed that tonight pretty well. But after they scored that goal, our response demonstrated our determination to get to that date.”
The slippery turf prevented Centennial from playing its style of soccer. But the Jaguars found a way to come out on top.
“We wanted to play soccer, and it was very difficult for us because of the skipping ball–the wet weather,” Duax said. “It was very difficult for us to connect passes, so it was more or less a game of boom ball–which favored (Hoover) to be honest. Our center backs had to be brave and win the first balls, and then our mids had to win the second and we had to connect passes. The goals that we scored were off connected passes. When we executed, we scored goals. But it was very difficult to score goals tonight.”
Now, Centennial will try to beat Urbandale for the second time this season. The Jaguars won a shootout against their CIML rival, 3-2, on April 12.
The J-Hawks defeated Des Moines East, 3-2, in a substate final.