Big time moments call for big time players. Louisburg College’s Max Blackmore is just that.
The nation’s leading scorer in Division I men’s soccer of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) once again proved his status. The sophomore scored a double overtime-winner in the 102nd minute to help give Louisburg (N.C.) its first national title with a 1-0 win over Tyler Junior College on Saturday at the Smith River Sports Complex in Martinsville, Va.
Blackmore seized an opportunity of separation up the middle on a counter attack down the left wing, following a turnover near midfield. Louisburg freshman defender Jaric Spath made a 40-yard run in transition before crossing a low ball toward the center of the six-yard box. The near-post run of Blackmore was timed perfect just in front of Tyler goalkeeper Junior Santos, lifting the ball under the crossbar from close range.
“As soon as JT (Jaric Spath) got down the wing, every single game this season he’s delivered a ball to the near post,” Blackmore said. “So I knew to make that near-post run and he put it where he’d put it all season. “It’s a great personal achievement,” he added of scoring his nation-leading 35th goal. “I’ve always set out to be the top scorer of the team or nation, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates with all the assists that they gave me.”
Tyler head coach Steve Clements said his defense did well in marking Blackmore throughout the match. The striker’s only real chance prior to the winner came in the 67th minute on a through-ball attempt by Jorge Quintanilla. Santos came off his line and denied the scoring attempt up high inside the left channel of the penalty box.
“(Blackmore) is a great player, a good follower and scores the big goals,” Clements said. And I’ll tell you what, when you think about it through the years, it’s that guy that can score a goal like that that wins a lot of these tournaments.”
Louisburg head coach Martin Dell said by having a good pair of outside backs to compliment the play going forward was an advantage late. After suffering an exit in the group stages on goal differential of last year’s national tournament in Arizona, Dell added that his team was determined to find the winner if given a chance.
“We talked about a couple of things. We talked about how it might be a mistake like getting an interception like that or a something special,” Dell said. “We felt like we made a couple of mistakes in that first overtime period that could’ve led to good opportunities for them and it didn’t. If there was one opportunity that we could get, we felt like we could get someone on the end of it. “It was never going to be a great game for (Blackmore) because he was going to have attention around him all the time. But he thinks very quickly and reacts very quickly, so I think he has a heads up that he can get on the end of something like that.”
The defending champion Apaches saw a flurry of late-regulation chances go by the wayside, and ultimately fell victim to a costly mistake in the early stages of the second overtime period. As they did in the semifinal the night before, the Apaches pushed for a winner inside the final 15 minutes.
Freshman Donjay Smith had a header from a loose ball roll off the top of the crossbar in the 77th minute, stemming from Tyler’s first corner of the second half. Three minutes later, Ali Musse had a clear look to the near post from the right channel saved by Louisburg keeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz. Then in 83rd minute, Musse missed his redemption shot, hitting the left post on a passing shot from the same spot.
Clements said by pushing bodies higher late added to Louisburg fatigue in the back, having played to overtime less than 24 hours before. The only difference was not finding the back of the net.
“Our issue probably all season was you just never knew where our next goal was going to come from,” Clements said. “You just hate that it bites you this game; you hope that it catches you earlier in the year. It caught us on the wrong day and we certainly had our opportunities and chances there late.”
Both teams were limited in scoring chances during the first half. Louisburg had a pair of chances kept out inside the final 15 minutes, one on a Santos save on Benjamin Foulds, and another missed on a grazing header by Alex Kao off a corner in 34th minute. Tyler held a 22-12 shots advantage but had just six on target to Louisburg’s seven.
The teams met in the 2012 national championship match hosted by Darton State College in Albany, Ga., which Tyler won 1-0 in overtime. The Apaches finished the season 19-4, reaching the final the last four years and six of the last seven. The Hurricanes rode a 23-game winning streak to their first national championship and a 24-1 record.
2015 NJCAA Men’s Soccer National All-Tournament Team Forwards Andrew Revanales (Massasoit CC); Jason Romero (Pima CC); Yannick Koffi (Eastern Florida State College)
Midfielders Maxi Ojeda (ASA New York); Jorge Chavez (Jefferson College); Lochian Reus (Lewis & Clark CC); Alex Kao (Louisburg College); Ricardo Gomez (Tyler Junior College)
Defenders Juan Velasquez (Iowa Western CC); Ramario Thompson (Tyler Junior College)