High School Sports

Champs! Cardinal Newman boys soccer edges Hammond for second title in three years

Twenty minutes for a lifetime of memories. That’s exactly what Cardinal Newman and Hammond had facing them Wednesday evening when they resumed the Class 3A boys state soccer championship at Heathwood Hall.

They started the match on Saturday, but it was halted after 60 minutes of play due to inclement weather in the Columbia area. They resumed play with 20 minutes remaining in regulation and the chance to hoist a championship trophy on the line.

Jaime Lopez Gutierez scored in the 74th minute in the Cardinals’ 1-0 victory in what could be best described as a sprint to the finish.

“Our talent and the way we prepared came out today,” Cardinal Newman coach Will Eudy said. “This group prepared better for this game than any team I’ve had in my 13 years here. They were unbelievable. The things we worked on won the game.”

The goal by Gutierez was perfectly executed. Hammond had received spectacular play in goal from James Runge, but a ball played as well as possible proved to be the difference.

Gutierez received a pass near midfield and dribbled it to just into the box before he promptly lifted it across the goal into the top right corner of the net.

“We knew if we could get to the opposite side, that it would be open for us,” Eudy said. “Then Jaime stepped up and hit a great shot. One in a million, top corner. That was next level right there. Their goalkeeper is outstanding, and he wasn’t letting anything in. That (goal) was just special.”

The soft-spoken Gutierez described the goal from his perspective.

“Garen (Presnal) gave me the ball as I was running and I go to the right and I saw the goalie was a little bit to the left and I just shot it to the right and it went in,” the sophomore midfielder said. “Then I went and celebrated with my teammates.”

The teams are very familiar with each other. The rivals have played in the last three state finals, with Cardinal Newman (23-3) winning in 2017 and 2019 and Hammond (18-7) winning the championship in 2018. The teams played twice this season with each winning once.

The unusual circumstances of the finish allowed both teams to regroup. Play started with a Matthew Binette free kick from about 20 yards out that was defended well by the Skyhawks. Cardinal Newman applied continuous pressure but both teams had scoring opportunities.

But neither could break through until Gutierez’s spectacular goal.

“A lot was put on the free kick but that was just one play of the 19 minutes. No matter if it went in or didn’t go in, we had to keep playing and do what we do. Give the credit to the boys, they did it,” Eudy said. “We stuck with the change we made at halftime on Saturday. We wanted to go attack and leave it on the field.”

Hammond coach Adrian Pinasco was very emotional afterward, taking several minutes with his team before being able to address the heartbreaking setback.

“I’m just very sad for the kids. They gave everything they had. They left it all out there,” Pinasco said. “Complete credit to Cardinal Newman, they were very, very, very good Saturday and again today. They had one great shot in the upper 90 slot.”

Eudy, who has won six championships with the Cardinals, presented outgoing principal Jacqualine Kasprowski with a medal as the program celebrated its eighth state championship overall.

“We talked in the beginning of the year of being the no-named gang,” Eudy said. “We lost some pretty big players in the past couple of years and these guys stepped up and put their names in the history books with our program. I’m really proud of these guys.”