Collins scores late, lifts West Fargo to state soccer title
GRAND FORKS — After welcoming his second child on Monday, West Fargo boys soccer coach James Moe didn't necessarily need another state championship to make this a week to remember.
Even so, he was hardly in the mood to complain with the result of the title game Saturday, Oct. 13.
Daniel Collins saved his best for last, scoring a breakaway goal with 2 minutes and 32 seconds to play, lifting the Packers to a fourth state championship with a 1-0 win in a thriller over Fargo Davies.
One day after scoring four times against a Bismarck Century team that had only allowed five goals all season, the Packers were effectively stymied by a Davies defense, which stuffed the back end and prevented West Fargo from getting any clean looks on goal in the second half.
But Collins, who finished with a program record 31 goals this season, finally got loose in the open field, corralling a pass from teammate Lucas Simon and tapping a ball over the head of charging goalie Noah Sahr.
"I couldn't believe it," an out-of-breath Collins said after the game. "I'm so proud of all of us. For 80 minutes we worked as a team and now we're state champs."
Even with so little time left, the Eagles weren't about to go away quietly, as they earned two free kicks opportunities and a corner kick in the final 1 minute, 20 seconds.
But a West Fargo defense that didn't allow a goal in three state games was once again up to the challenge, as defenders successfully batted away all shot attempts before they could reach goalie Tommy Klein.
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Moe said. "We finally had an 80-minute game. That is what we wanted all year. We hadn't see that type of soccer all year and today we realized what we're capable of."
One of five Packers to earn an all-tournament team selection, Telvin Vah was named North Dakota senior player of the year afterwards, an honor he happily shared with the rest of his team.
"It's all for these guys. They're the reason I got this," said Vah, one of 12 seniors on the West Fargo roster. "This is a whole team award. This is for the whole team and I'm proud of every single one of them."
Predictably, the mood was a much more somber one in the Davies locker room afterwards, as the Eagles lost by a goal in the state championship game for the second consecutive season.
The loss was a bitter end to an unprecedented run of success for a 13-man senior class that turned a team that won just one conference game in Coach Ian Costello's first season, into a perennial state contender.
"They've set the precedent, they've set the bar now for the program," Costello said of his seniors. "All the credit goes to them and the rest of their teammates. I'm a sliver, a fraction of a fraction. And they are truly amazing, all of them."
After capturing another state title—his third as a head coach to go along with one as an assistant—Moe was looking forward to some well-earned time with his expanding family, though he admitted he'd still be taking some time to soak in all the events of the weekend.
"It's a perfect ending to one of the best weeks of my life," he said.