GREEN FOREST — It all comes down to one game.
For the Tigers of Green Forest, that game is Saturday at 12 p.m. on Razorback Field hosted by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Green Forest takes a 16-1-2 record into the Class 3A State Soccer Tournament championship as the top seed from 3A-West. The opponent is Central Arkansas Christian. CAC is 14-3 on the year and represent the top seed from 3A-East.
Tiger head coach Ben West has some experience in state championships. In 2015, he was an assistant football coach at McCrory High School where the Jaguars went undefeated on their way to a Class 2A State Football Tournament championship.
West mentioned what he has learned from his experiences.
“We realize that we have to keep it upbeat and loose, but focused,” he said. “Positive, positive, positive. That way we go with confidence and destroy any doubt.”
This isn’t Green Forest’s first party in a title game either. In 2014, head coach Bradley James led a lair of Tigers to a state championship on the soccer field. It was a familiar opponent in CAC. “We hope to win against them again,” noted West. “We will have to play our best game to do it.”
Green Forest believes they earned the right to be in the final game and began the season expecting to be there.
“We started day one together and set our goal,” West commented about the team’s purpose and passion. “It was simple. One team, one mind, one heart and one goal. To be the best 3A soccer team in Arkansas.”
Now the Tigers are one game away from making that goal a reality.
Green Forest scored 51 goals in the regular season while only allowing 13. Only two teams were able to score more than one goal on the Tiger defense. Mountain Home scored two goals in Green Forest’s only loss of the year in a 2-1 contest. Carroll County rival Berryville challenged the Tigers to two close contests. Both games ended in a 3-3 tie.
The Tigers are riding an eight-game winning streak into the final game and have been aggressive offensively in their run through the state tournament. They have outscored their opponents in the tournament by a 20-2 mark. The opening game was a 7-1 win over Riverview followed by a 7-0 shutout of Cossatot River in the quarterfinals and then a 6-1 win over Harding Academy to advance to the title game.
The Green Forest fans have been showing up in large numbers to the games and the Tiger coach took note.
“We absolutely love our fans,” he said. “They are definitely a part of our game. If not for them, the excitement would not be as great. We believe that Green Forest will be a ghost town this Saturday. So if you are looking for someone, they are probably at our game.”
Team members of the Tiger soccer team include: Fredy Juarez Jr.; Caesar Lopez; David Aguinaga; Jordy DeLeon; Jesus Flores; Collin Delavin; Lah Kpro; Pablo Leon; Bryan Soto; Randi Alvarado; Kevin Lopez; Kelvin Garcia; Andy Lopez; Allen Deleon; Bryant Escobar; Genaro Ochoa; Miguel Preciado; Emerson Ortiz; Johnathan Valdez; Franklin Morales; Gage Lowe; Jovanny Salazar; Aron Divall; Eli Maroquin; and Llelfer Vasquez. Abel Salazar, Eduardo Garcia and Alex Merida are the team managers. The team is coached by head coach Ben West and assistant coach, Fernando Fuentes.