Welcome to CADDO MAGNET High School Men's Soccer: Older News: Mustangs Are Finalist In St. Paul Holiday Tournament

Saturday, December 30
Mustangs Are Finalist In St. Paul Holiday Tournament
Caddo Magnet men’s soccer made a giant leap onto the state scene as it knocked out two Top 10 teams en route to the championship match at the prestigious St. Paul’s Holiday Tournament. The Covington tournament annually brings together many of the state’s finest men’s high school soccer programs over the Christmas break. The Mustangs regretfully were unable to come away with a win in the championship match against state #1 Jesuit but did draw high praise from the tournament director during the trophy presentation. The team during bracket play on the day prior had eliminated tournament host St. Paul in a thrilling 4 to 3 come-from-behind win, and then in the semis overcame a two-goal deficit against Vandebilt to win another thriller in double overtime. The team was disadvantaged throughout the tournament in terms of numbers as several players could not make the trip, but with good game management Coach Radi Baltov managed well. However, the effort expended in the semifinal double overtime win proved costly in the championship match as the weary Mustangs went down two goals in the first 20 minutes and could not recover. At that point the bench was emptied to allow playing time for all, and Jesuit respectfully substituted most if not all of their lineup at the half. Caddo Magnet suffered only its third loss of the season with the eventual 5 to 0 score.

The Mustangs' advancement to the championship match was a surprise to most tournament observers. And that is a big understatement. But there was at least one coach there who didn’t see it any other way, and he had his team believing it, too. Falling behind early in three of the four games leading to the final, and then coming back in dramatic fashion in each of them … the Mustangs came away from this tournament with so much more than a runner-up trophy.

Bracket play began with Thurday morning’s match against Baton Rouge. The field was wet and soft from prior rains and slowed the play for both sides. The Mustangs gave up a free kick goal at the 7-minute mark to put itself in an early hole. In the 14th minute they got the tying goal as Adam West found the net from the top right of the box after taking a pass from Steven Bush. Capitalizing on a short pass from Nick Flowers, Bush gave Magnet the lead shortly after from the same area. But that lead would not last long as Baton Rouge converted another free kick for its second goal. The second half was all Magnet beginning with a penalty kick after Jimmy Cowles was taken down. Zach Kelly converted for the go-ahead goal. Other players earning goals in the second half were Eric Johnson off a Kelly assist and Bush with another strike form the top of the box. Throughout the contest Baton Rouge was unable to match the Mustangs precision passing game resulting in a Magnet edge in possession and shots-on-goal. Final score 5 to 2.

Caddo Magnet’s afternoon bracket match against St. Paul School may have been its most technically-sound game to date against a quality opponent. Despite beautiful passing from both sides St Paul held the early possession advantage and had the Mustangs down two goals after 13 minutes. Both scores came on identical deflections following corner kicks. In the 21st minute Eric Johnson scored for Magnet (Nick Flowers assisted) from near the top of the box, but five minutes later St. Paul got its third goal on a loose ball in front of the net. Zach Kelly scored in the 28th minute on a ball punched out by the keeper. At the conclusion of a very fast-paced and physical first half St. Paul held a 3 to 2 lead. Caddo Magnet started the second half in high gear and tied the game early as Adam West scored from straight on. Shortly thereafter Johnson was taken down in the box, and Zach Kelly converted his second penalty kick of the tournament with the eventual game-winner. The remaining 23 minutes of the contest saw the Mustangs exhibit a beautiful passing game under pressure as they fought off a determined state #6 St. Paul team to take the 4 to 3 win.

Friday morning’s bracket match against St. Charles Catholic saw a good possession game early from the Mustangs against a bigger-but-less-skilled group, but neither team could manage a goal. Early in the second half Eric Johnson was able to score from the left mid-box area on a Zach Kelly and Adam West tandem assist down the middle of the field. At that point Coach Radi began to substitute freely with the anticipation of having fresh bodies for the probable advancement out of bracket play. St. Charles was eventually able to score off a corner kick late in the contest to tie the match, but with the 1 to 1 tie Magnet was in the semis.

For its semifinal match the Mustangs faced their second Top 10 team of the tournament in Vandebilt Catholic which had earned its way into the finals after beating state #7 Catholic of Baton Rouge. Caddo Magnet spotted Vandebilt a goal in the fifth minute of play, and then another in the 31st minute before finally getting its first score with an Eric Johnson shot from the top of the box. Steven Bush assisted. For the half Magnet held the possession edge but Vandebilt held the one-goal lead. In the fourth minute of the second half Johnson got another goal from a well-earned drive into the box in which he was taken down but no call. He immediately was back on his feet to repossess the ball and ripped a shot through several defenders to knot the score. The remaining 36 minutes of regulation was back-and-forth at a frantic pace and very physical. Magnet was working its short game well, and Vandebilt seemed to be relying more on the longer ball, but neither could manage another goal, and the game went to golden goal overtime. The first 10-minute period produced beautiful play from both sides with no winning goal. In the 2nd minute of the second overtime Johnson completed the hat trick with the winning goal as he took a pass from Adam West and out-raced his defender to drive the ball into the net from close range. With the dramatic 3 to 2 win the team was in the St. Paul’s championship match for the first time since the year 2000. (That matchup also resulted in a Caddo Magnet runner-up finish to Jesuit.)

Obviously all the components of this team had big efforts throughout the tournament. The midfield of Steven Bush, Jimmy Cowles, Nick Flowers, and Zach Kelly was outstanding, not only in giving the Mustangs the overall possession edge but contributing five goals and five assists in the offensive production. Forwards Eric Johnson and Adam West produced critical goals in tough coverage when needed most. Johnson’s three-goal effort against Vandebilt displayed an awesome combination of desire and ability. The defensive foursome of Micah Goodwin, Spencer Inman, Robert Poole, and Luke Snow allowed only three goals over the first four matches, as the other five goals given up in that span all resulted from free kicks and corner kicks. Further, the defense allowed only one second-half goal in those first four matches. Goalkeeper Chris Hilario further established himself in net with another outstanding tournament. Devon Iles, Spencer Johnson, Jordan Mitchell, Jack Waterman, and Akeem Williams proved their value to this team with strong contributions at critical times.

The team has now completed a successful three-tournament schedule with its semifinal appearance in Sulphur, the championship at the Parkway Tournament, and today's runner-up trophy at St. Paul’s. The Mustangs now focus its attention on a busy district schedule for the remainder of the season.