Decked out in an Ozzy Osbourne headband and an "Ozzy Rules" T-shirt, Colony boys soccer coach Jeremy Johnson looks like the type of guy who's used to seeing beauty come out of madness.
That's exactly what Johnson got Friday in a fourth-place semifinal game at the state soccer tournament at Colony High School. The Knights overcame a rocky, and somewhat odd, start to the game to post a 3-0 victory over Soldotna and eliminate the Stars from the tournament. The Knights went on to defeat East 1-0 Saturday to clinch fourth place.
Osbourne, the heavy metal (and now TV) star, is known for starting his shows by saying, "Let the madness begin." Johnson has seen Osbourne live 30 times, so he must have felt strangely comforted when his team began the game with a crazy train of events.
Here is a brief diary of Johnson's madmen:
In the 18th minute, Colony defender Casey Zell received a yellow card for a hard tackle on Soldotna's Ben Histand. Johnson didn't like the language Zell used as he was leaving the field, so he kept Zell out the rest of the game. As further punishment, Johnson also didn't immediately replace Zell, leaving the Knights to play with just 10 players for a few minutes.
In the 20th minute, Colony drew a penalty kick and a golden opportunity to take a 1-0 lead and put the Zell incident behind it. However, Soldotna goalie Mike Hart stonewalled Landon Swank with a diving save.
In the 21st minute, Colony goalie Andrew Kowalczk drew a yellow card for a hard tackle just outside the penalty area. This meant Kowalczk had to sit down for a few minutes. Field player Rhett Magner threw on a red mesh vest over his green jersey and kept the Stars at bay until Kowalczk could return.
Despite all these odd events, Johnson said he never had a bad feeling about the game. Colony defeated Soldotna during the regular season 2-1 before falling to the Stars 1-0 in the Region III championship game. Johnson saw many of the strange things as byproducts of a fired-up team looking for revenge.
"We were mad," Johnson said. "We felt like we controlled most of the (Region III championship) game."
Colony's emotion started paying off in the 37th minute. Nicky Vankirk hit a cracker of a shot from the corner of the penalty area, dipping the ball into the far corner of the net. The assist went to Hannes Seubert.
"(The first goal) broke them down," Johnson said. "We settled into the game a little bit better."
In the 39th minute, the Knights went up 2-0 when Gabe Pepperd struck a tricky shot from the top of the penalty area that went just under the crossbar and just over the hands of Hart.
A half that started so promising for the Stars ended up with them in a two-goal hole.
"We felt like the door was open in the first half," Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said. "We couldn't capitalize on the other team's mistakes.
"After Mike Hart saved the penalty kick, I thought for sure that would fire the team up. We just couldn't get it going."
Soldotna senior Jason Dunagan agreed that the team's mental mindset was not the same Friday as the attitude heading into the region title tilt.
"We weren't fired up," he said. "We didn't come out mentally ready."
Colony finished up the scoring in the 60th minute. Swank placed a free kick from midfield right on the forehead of Jared Sherman. Sherman flicked the ball past Hart.
Although Soldotna did not win a game at state, seniors Dunagan, Histand, Anthony Murray, Todd Ghormley, Iver Kohler and Mike Hart were glad to have had the state experience.
"It's like a whole other level of play up here," Dunagan said. "During our season, we don't get to play Anchorage teams. We're stuck with Region III teams.
"(Thursday opponent) West took the game to a different level."
At the same time, Murray pointed out that Soldotna's seniors took the program to a different level of its own.
"Soccer has come a long way," Murray said. "We've gotten away from just being athletes. Now, we're soccer players."
Soldotna's younger players also received invaluable experience at the tournament.
"We've got a lot of skill in the younger players," Siemers said. "I'm looking forward to next year already. We played three freshmen in the game today, so there's a lot of good news for the future."
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