Rally gives Rebels first Northwest Suburban championship
Soccer team clinches title after blitzing Blaine for five second-half goals
When it did, the Champlin Park boys soccer team had made a little history.
The Rebels won their first ever conference championship last week, rallying with a furious second half explosion that turned a 2-0 halftime deficit into a 5-3 blitzing of host Blaine Oct. 4.
It was a victory that left the Bengals equal parts dazed and confused, while leaving Champlin Park in a pile of its own bodies near the team bench after capping an undefeated regular season (13-0-1) with a performance for the ages.
“I am in absolute awe of these boys right now,” exclaimed head coach Gavin Pugh. “We knew at halftime this was going to happen. The passion in their eyes was frightening. We were going to win.”
It certainly didn’t look that way early, as Blaine pounced for a pair of goals in the first 12 minutes. But Champlin Park nearly got on the board in the waning moments of the first half, before breaking through right away in the second 40 minutes.
Senior Emmanuel Egbujor got the Rebels on the board five minutes into the second half. The momentum would be put on hold almost immediately however, as Blaine regained its two-goal cushion on a penalty kick not even a minute later.
But just seconds after Brennan Burchill hit the left post with his attempt from 25-yards out, Sydney McLain scored to make it a 3-2 game with 23 minutes to play.
Esteban Arias Arauz evened the score with 10:55 left, then McLain put the Rebels up for good with his left-footed try a little over a minute later.
Egbujor finished off the Bengals for good with 5:54 to play, and the celebration was on.
“We knew we had it in us,” said Egbujor. “We had the wind in the second half, and we knew we would score some goals, and we did.”
The output was the Rebels largest since a 5-0 victory over Rogers way back on Aug. 25.
But this was different.
Blaine entered the game with a 12-2-1 record, and was riding a 10-game unbeaten stretch in which the Bengals allowed six total goals against.
The Rebels nearly doubled that number in not even 30 minutes of play.
“They are good, no question,” said McLain. “But after they got that [penalty kick], we knew we just had to keep scoring. We knew what we had to do.”
That sentence could also be used to describe the next week. The victory assured Champlin Park its conference championship, but it also guaranteed the Rebels of the No. 1 seed in the Section 5AA playoff, which begins Oct. 9 and concludes Oct. 16.
Pugh said he’s done his best to quiet the talk of anything beyond winning the conference, but with that goal now officially crossed off his team’s list, the focus has changed.
A state tournament berth is of the essence, and another championship could await the team if it gets that far.
Last week’s win over Blaine heightened those chances. There was, frankly, no other conclusion to come to.
“When you see them play like this, you can think like that,” said Pugh.
“What they give you in training is one thing, but when you see them turn it on like that, it is pretty special. We’re not done. We have pretty high expectations from here on out. But we are going to enjoy this. This was something I think they will all remember the rest of their lives. What a performance.”