After losing several outstanding eighth-graders who were a part of three of the last four ISC championship teams, there were questions facing the Oakwood Christian Academy Middle School soccer team as they began their quest for a fifth consecutive title earlier this season.
But the things about dynasties are, sometimes the names change, but the results remain the same.
The Eagles overcame some early season setbacks to fulfill their mission and add another championship banner to their ever-growing collection.
The 2019 season in mid-October with narrow losses to Berean Academy, 3-2 and 2-1, and a 0-0 tie with Boyd-Buchanan. However, after some adjustments, the Eagles came storming back with wins over Sale Creek (11-2) and Lookout Valley (8-0) before a 4-2 win over Boyd-Buchanan in a rematch.
They would close out the regular season with recent victories over Sale Creek (5-1) and Lookout Valley (9-0) to give the Navy-and-Gold the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, which was held in Tiftonia.
Facing No. 3-seeded Boyd in the opening round, the Eagles had over 50 minutes of possession on the Bucs’ side of the field. Ryan Phillips finally opening the scoring and Hunter Hickman added a goal to make it 2-0 at the half.
Hickman would go on a tear to the start the second half, scoring three more times in the first 10 minutes to make it 5-0 and Cason Baggett, normally a defensive player, tacked on the final tally for the 6-0 win that put them in the finals against Berean this past Thursday.
And it would be a far different outcome this time around.
Adhering to its “strike first” motto, Oakwood did just that as Hickman scored the first goal in the second minute off a Mana Gilchrist assist. Then, on the restart, Gilchrist send another ball up to Hickman, who sent a crossing pass to Phillips and Phillips made it 2-0 just three minutes into the contest. The onslaught continued in the 11th minute as Elizabeth Silva found the top-right corner of the goal on a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard box to add to the lead.
But Oakwood wasn’t done was forward Kyle Brooks blasted home a shot in the 23rd minute. Hickman scored his second goal just two minutes later and Silva got into the act once more as she connected on a penalty kick in the closing moments of the half, boosting the lead to 6-0. Silva, a sixth-grader, would emphatically end the half with a final late goal to cap her hat trick and give the Eagles an insurmountable 7-0 lead, which would turn out to be the final score.
“I’m so proud of them,” head coach Dirk Dickson said. “You put together a game plan and you try to instill the confidence that your players need to accomplish their assignments, but it all depends on them being focused and executing well. (This past Thursday), this team played the match of its life. Their were no breakdowns or distractions. They executed the game plan, stayed focused and played every minute as if were their last.
“They only had one goal this season, which was to repeat as ISC champions for the fifth time, and they accomplished their goal with excellence. I’ve been blessed as a coach this season to have had the opportunity to work with this group of amazing student-athletes. As much as I hate to lose the group of eighth graders from this team, I can’t wait to see their impact on the high school team."