It was a moment four years in the making. For this group of seniors on the Indian River High School boys’ soccer team, it was four years of hard work, determination and persistence that led them to this final moment of glory.
On Saturday, Dec. 12, the Indians’ 2020 team forever stamped themselves into the school’s record books, winning the DIAA Division II boys’ soccer state championship, with a 2-1 win over Newark Charter at Dover High School.
Sophomore Jordan Illian scored both goals for the Indians in the fourth quarter, his first coming from Kevin Castillo in the 68th minute as it found the inside left corner of the goal with a perfectly placed shot, and the second just five minutes later, on a beautiful feed from senior Willem Lambertson that Illian buried to the right side of the goal on a breakaway, for a 2-0 lead.
“We are so happy for these boys,” said veteran Indian River head coach Steve Kilby. “This win started four years ago, when this group of seniors were freshmen; they have really put their time in. Our back four have been so solid, giving up less than a half-goal a game.”
The win was the third state championship for Kilby and the Indian River boys’ soccer program. They had previously won back in 2013 and 2015.
Seniors Jax Cathell, Michael Peterson and Erick Aguilera were three-fourths of the back line — joined by sophomore Evan Peterson — that locked down the Newark Charter offensive efforts all night long.
“Jax Cathell, Evan Peterson, Michael Peterson and Josh Bird were fantastic,” an elated Kilby said. “Our midfield did a great job in the second half as well. We made an adjustment by dropping Erick into center-back as he was struggling a little with a quad strain. We moved Evan Peterson out wide left, and pushed Josh Bird into the midfield, where he really helped us to regain our confidence and get forward. Jordan has shown that he is the best sophomore in the state, nevermind our conference. He gets us across the finish almost every game.”
The two goals for Illian were his 18th and 19th of the season, which is even more impressive considering the shortened regular season due to the COVID-19 delay to the start of the season. He had also scored the lone goal for the Indians in their 1-0 semifinal win over Sussex Academy back on Wednesday, Dec. 9, to advance his team to the title game. Illian also had a team-high 13 assists.
Newark Charter freshman Jackson Laznik scored the lone goal for the Patriots with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
“It’s a shame they were able to score that goal there late, because it would have been nice to have three shutouts in the playoffs, but this is pretty sweet,” Kilby added. “This win is very rewarding. It has been since 2015, so I am very grateful that we were able to pull it off. I am very happy for the whole team, especially these seniors.”
The Indians wrapped up the season with a 14-2 record, while the Patriots saw their best season in school history come to a close at 9-3-1. IR held a 14-9 advantage in shots, with senior Bastian Perry credited with four saves between the posts.
Perry and fellow seniors Cathell, Lambertson, Aguilera, Josh Bird, Michael Peterson, Omar Baker, Arturo Cruz Bonilla, Eddie Mochiam and Kyle Topper wrap up their Indian River careers with a 56-14-1 overall record.
For the season, Lambertson was second on the team, with 8 goals and 6 assists. Aguilera added 6 goals and 3 assists. Blake Morgan (6 assists), Baker (3 assists) and Cruz Bonilla (2 assists) each contributed 3 goals.
Overall, the Indians scored 52 goals in their 16 games (3.25 goals per game average), while allowing just 10 goals — less than one per game (.625 goals per game) — with 10 shutouts. Remove the six goals scored by Milford in their two losses, and the Indians would have had an astounding a .29 goals against average over their 14 wins.
“It was a pretty special season,” Kilby concluded. “For the guys to pull together, never knowing each day if it might be their last time on the field with everything going on with COVID, for them to get to this point, and win this championship, is just very, very special. I couldn’t be prouder, quite honestly.”