Another year in, and now another state title for the Waukee High School boys soccer team. Waukee took to their sixth ever state tournament appearance and blew through the state tournament field all the way to the state title game where they captured a second state tournament crown in as many seasons with a 3-1 victory over nine-time champion Iowa City West.
It marked a perfect ending to a dominating season in which the Warriors concluded with an unblemished 22-0, becoming just the first team in Class 3A to end the season with a perfect record since Johnston completed that feat back in the 2013-14 season. It seemed effortless by the Warriors as they outscored playoff opponents 18-1 in the process.
As for the grand finale in the state title game, the Warriors established themselves early both in the field and on the scoreboard, starting with freshman CJ Coppola who took an exceptionally well placed cross from senior Max McLaughlin to provide Waukee with a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the contest. It was a continuation of what the Warriors have been doing since day one but still amazing to see as Warrior head coach Carlos Acebey explained after the contest.
“Coppola’s goal was an example of what we’ve been preaching as a team this entire season,” began Acebey. “When everybody puts in 100 percent and does their job, nothing is impossible or out of reach. Max had a well placed pass and CJ was aware enough to recognize where the ball was headed and beat his opponent to the punch. Great team goal right there.”
The Waukee offense has allowed just a handful of goals all season after scoring first and in fact didn’t allow a single goal all first half. Meanwhile, after junior Sully Bolles was fouled just outside the 15 yard box, fellow junior and Waukee’s leading scorer Edi Cokovic drilled a free kick from distance and with the help of a misread by the Iowa City West goalie, the Warriors took a commanding 2-0 lead with 16:14 remaining in the first half of play. The goal marked Cokovic’s 18th goal of the season which just so happened to finish 11th in all of Class 3A scoring for 2019. It was a goal that was perfectly placed and perfectly executed, something Cokovic himself was quite happy about following the win.
“I saw that the goalkeeper was out of position and I knew I had one spot to put the ball,” began Cokovic. “It felt real good coming off of my foot and it was placed exactly where I wanted it to go, very happy with that one.”
The first half would come to a close just as it had for over 17 games this season with Waukee leading after having not allowed a single first half goal.
The Warriors would tack on the put-away goal with 24:33 remaining in regulation after the Iowa City West goalkeeper drew a foul inside the penalty box. That gave the Warriors the coveted penalty kick and they gave the opportunity to senior Justin Crawmer who deposited his fourth goal of the season to put the Warriors ahead 3-0. The Warriors were on track to be just the first team to not give up a single goal within the Class 3A state tournament since (ironically enough) Iowa City West did so back in 2012. Unfortunately, just six minutes following Waukee’s final goal, the 2019 edition of Iowa City West soccer scored their lone goal of the game, making the score 3-1 still in favor of Waukee.
As the final seconds ticked away, the Warriors wound up claiming another state title, a feeling that felt just as great if not better than the year before according to Waukee goalkeeper Wesley Sanders.
“This feels absolutely amazing and while last year was special, this time around feels a little extra special,” said Sanders. “As a senior to go out like this, there isn’t a better feeling out there.”
Sanders was one of four Warrior players to earn All-Tournament team status along with Edi Cokovic, Justin Crawmer, and Trevor Jones who was deemed the All-Tournament Team captain.
There’s no doubt about it, the 2019 season was as magical as they come and finally brought some closure to coach Acebey who coming into the state tournament said his team would never be satisfied until the season was finished. After claiming the title coach was finally able to say satisfaction was earned.
“Yeah, this has culminated in a lot of stress to flow out of my veins, it’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives,” began Acebey. “Now we’re no longer viewed as newcomers to state but now in the conversation along with Iowa City West, Bettendorf, and Valley. To be among that conversation in terms of success at the state tournament is huge and now we’ll never look back.”
Despite the loss of eleven seniors from the 2019 roster, there’s still a lot of excitement on the horizon as Waukee will bring back 67 percent of their offensive production for the 2020 campaign.