GEORGETOWN—Wakeland had been waiting for Saturday afternoon for a long time.
Two years ago, the Wolverines saw their bid at a third straight state championship come to an end in the title game with a narrow 2-1 loss to El Paso Bel Air.
Wakeland was armed and loaded to remedy that situation a year ago, but was denied the opportunity to do so when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the playoffs.
With things somewhat returning back to normal, the Wolverines seized their opportunity this season, advancing to the state championship game for the fifth consecutive playoffs.
It was once again a close game, but Wakeland would not be denied, as it posted a 3-2 victory over Humble Kingwood in the Class 5A state championship match at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.
“Just to have a chance to see the guys have a chance to celebrate after, it is exciting,” Wakeland head coach Andy Holt said. “It does take a while to fully sink in, but that moment right there after the match and having a chance to celebrate, that hits you right away.”
Several of the Wolverine players were taking the state stage for the first time, and nerves are to be expected, but those were allayed a bit when they were able to strike first, as Marlon Williams set up Brennan Bezdek in the Kingwood Park box and the junior did the rest, beating the keeper to his right to take a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes in.
“Like anything else, it is how you finish, but it was great to get off to a good start,” Holt said. “We were able to put some pressure on them and then late when they put some pressure on us, we were able to stand up to the challenge.”
Wakeland (24-1-1) expected Kingwood Park (26-3-2), who had recorded 37 goals in five playoff matches, to respond and it did, but a handful of key saves from Connor Pettigrew kept them in the lead.
The Panthers finally broke through in the 49th minute on a score by Andrew Guerra to knot it at 1-1, but it did not take the Wolverines long to answer.
Less than two minutes later, Micah Kelley collected a pass from Williams and put the ball in the back of the net to surge back ahead, 2-1.
Wakeland did not let off the gas and Bezdek was again in the middle of the action, as he fed Jak Keith, who was able to provide the finish on an 18-yard blast to extend it to 3-1 with 22:42 left.
Kingwood Park would make things interesting, as Guerra tallied his second goal off an assist from Walter Rodee to close to within 3-2 with 5:46 remaining, but the Wolverines would make sure that would stand up until the end.
“It was tough last year because we had a real good group of seniors … and they were devastated, they were crushed not getting a chance to get back there,” Holt said. “This is a newer group with a lot of younger guys who are here for the first time, but they have the talent, they worked hard and got after it. They felt like they wanted to prove something and they went out and did it.”
Wakeland closes the season on a 12-match winning streak. In a testament to the depth and quality of soccer in Frisco ISD, the Wolverines’ lone setback was a 2-0 loss to Lone Star, who finished last in 9-5A, and Holt credited the toughness of the district in preparing the team for the playoff grind.
Every state champion has a special story to tell, and Wakeland has been fortunate enough to celebrate a state title four times in the last 11 years. The Wolverines entered the season wanting to leave their own distinctive mark on one of the most successful programs in the state, and they completed the feat on Saturday.
“Their closeness, just their camaraderie, and you saw that in the final and you saw it all year long,” Holt said. “Any time somebody scores a goal, the other guys are excited for them, it never matters who, they are excited about what it means for the team. That is why this group has been special to coach. They wanted to get to a certain level and they did it and they did it together.”