Blaine's Colton Nelson (12) and Eastview's Jacob Opheim (10) attempted to head the ball during Thursday's Class 2A championship game. Photo: MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE * email@example.com
Eastview players celebrated their championship at the final horn. Photo: MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE * firstname.lastname@example.org
Blaine players showed their disappointment at the end of the game. Photo: MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE * email@example.com
Securing a desperation shot as time expired, it was fitting sophomore goalie Kyle Lamott closed out Eastview’s 3-2 victory over Blaine in the Class 2A soccer state championship game Thursday night at Mall of America Field.
Lamott is a poster child of what Eastview overcame to earn the right to hoist the champions’ plaque. He, like 13 teammates, had never played varsity before this season, but they were forced to fill a substantial void.
A great loss of talent left a cloud of doubt over the program. For a time, nobody, including some of the players, thought Eastview could make another run at a state championship.
“From the start, including myself, I didn’t think we would make it this far,” Lamott said. “We lost four academy players that were the core of team. We had a lot of new players, but we all proved ourselves.”
Coach Scott Gustafson had heard the talk that his team would be a “one-and-done” group this postseason, but he never believed it, nor did senior midfielder Jacob Opheim.
“We used it as motivation to get this far,” said Opheim, who scored two goals. “Always in my mind we could do special things, even though other people didn’t think we could.”
Opheim’s second goal in the 64th minute gave the Lightning its final lead after trading goals with the Bengals. In the 61st minute Blaine’s Zachary Wright evened the score 2-2. The quick exchange of goals was a theme. Eastview’s Michael Stockton scored in the third minute of the game, promptly followed by Blaine’s first goal in the seventh minute from Mitch Boege.
Eastview avenged its 2011 state championship loss to Eden Prairie to claim the program’s first state title.
“I think a lot of people had a lot of doubt in us, but it’s nice to do it for each other,” said Eastview’s Sam Fluegge, who handed out two assists. “It’s nice to be able to get back [to the championship] and do it the right way.”