Oakwood Christian Academy has conference championship banners in soccer, basketball and volleyball lining the walls of its gymnasium, but never a state championship banner.
That’s all about to change.
After claiming a Southern Christian Athletic Association league title earlier this month, the OCA soccer team earned the school’s first state title in any sport on Friday as they rolled past Old Suwanee Christian of Buford, 7-1, in the Georgia Christian Athletic Association (GCAA) championship match in Chickamauga.
“It is absolutely sweet, but there is a lot of hard work, sweat, tears and pain that came before this moment,” said head coach Dirk Dickson. “A lot of students have cycled through this program to make it what it is. A lot of coaches have stepped in place. Dr. (Daniel) Ray has stepped in many times and Coach Tony Vona, who was here before me, set the standard and I was able to come in and just basically build on that system and work with these kids and have fun doing it.
“I tell them every single day at practice and before every match that if we’re not having fun and we’re not smiling, then we’ve chosen the wrong sport to play. I think it’s because we do enjoy it that we’ve worked as hard as we can in practice to get to this point.”
The Eagles got on the board just nine minutes into the championship game as Caleb Epperson slammed home a penalty kick to give his team a lead it would never relinquish.
Oakwood would just miss on two more scoring chances in the next 12 minutes before finding the net again in the 22nd minute. Ryan Scarborough hit a perfectly-placed free-kick into the top right corner of the net from 30 yards out to increase the lead to 2-0.
Eight minutes later, Scarborough sent a corner kick just over the top of the crowd in front of the net and right on the head of a streaking Chase Heptinstall, who snuck in undetected off the back side for beautiful goal.
Scarborough would make it 4-0 with four minutes left in the half as he followed up an initial shot by Epperson that the Conquerors’ keeper could not corral in front of the net.
After Sam Lewis nearly connected on a goal three minutes into the second half, Epperson rifled low, skimming pass two-thirds of the way across the field right to the foot of Lewis, who redirected it into the net to increase the Eagles’ lead to 5-0.
Epperson nearly scored on a long-range shot in the 46th minute, but on Oakwood’s next trip down field, the senior was able to get one through a crowd of players in front of the net for his second tally of the night.
The final goal of the game for the Eagles came in the 57th minute as Corey Holder sent a shot to the back of the net from inside the 18-yard box to make it 7-0.
OSC, who had very few chances to score in the match, was able to prevent the shutout by scoring on a penalty kick with 17 minutes to play following a somewhat questionable handball call against Eagles. However, it would be much too little, much too late as OCA hoisted the championship trophy.
Epperson was later named as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“This team has worked so hard in the midst of all of these constant distractions from one day to the next, even having to overcome a week off for fall break,” Dickson added. “When they came back that Monday, they came back more focused than they even were from day one in the summer.
“They knew that they had their second goal of the season within reach, to win a second conference championship this year and they did it. They worked their tails off all week and practiced very specifically in some areas, not knowing if Old Suwanee was going to play it the way they had played us in the previous two matches against them. They were prepared and they were ready.”
“It Is sweet to be the first (OCA) team (to win a state title), but I think more is coming in other areas this year or next year.”