The third showdown this season between 6A boys soccer rivals Russellville and Siloam Springs was a classic and not without controversy.
Junior midfielder Christian Marroquin scored a suspect goal midway through the first half, and the Panthers made it stand up in a 1-0 victory over the Cyclones in the 6A-West Conference championship game Saturday at Panther Stadium.
But the manner in which the goal was scored had both sides talking after the game about its legitimacy.
On the play, the sideline official on the Russellville sideline had signaled offsides on Siloam Springs, but the center official overrode the call and play continued on.
Marroquin found himself open for a great shot and took it and scored the game's only goal.
Siloam Springs coach Brent Crenshaw was on the far side of the field when the play happened and didn't see all of it transpire.
"What I got (from the officials) after the game was with the new offsides rule, if there's a deflection then it's not an offsides," Crenshaw said. "He said (Siloam Springs) was in an offside position. ... I didn't see the play. If there's a deflection off the defender. Down there he just kept playing. That's the new rule but I haven't seen it called like that this year.
"I just coach the game. I don't ref it. I leave those guys to do it. I couldn't tell what it was. We created a lot of good chances first half and so I was happy we got that goal."
On the Russellville sideline, coach Jared Fuller didn't see the play the same way.
"Yep, I can't say anything," Fuller said. "If I'm a professional coach I get fined for telling the refs how bad they are. So I'm going to say that refs make mistakes, we make mistakes, and we've got to play better and pull the ball in the back of the net and we didn't do that today."
Marroquin's goal was the junior's seventh tally of the season.
In the second half, the Panthers (14-7-3) did everything they could defensively to preserve the lead.
"Second half we had to bunker in," Crenshaw said. "We had to bunker in. We didn't have the legs. We were kind of banged up a bit in certain spots and do just enough to not let them score."
Siloam Springs goalkeeper Wyatt Church was active and made several saves in the second half, including on line drive shots from Russellville's Gilles Jacquemin and Wesley Robinson. The Cyclones (16-4-1) also had a shot hit a post late in the second half.
It was the third time Siloam Springs and Russellville have squared off this season and the 12th time they've met since 2015 with Siloam Springs holding a 7-5 edge, including wins in the 2016 6A state championship and the last two 6A-West Conference championship games.
The Panthers got a penalty kick on April 3 in Russellville and stunned the Cyclones 1-0 this season. Russellville returned the favor in an impressive manner by routing the Panthers 4-1 on senior night on April 20.
"We owed them one," said Siloam Springs senior Irvin Rios. "Senior night, we still remembered that. We took that pretty personal. It's an emotional time, senior night, and they were talking some crap, and we took that even more personal. Coach showed us all the messages and what they were saying. That got us more fired up. We needed to take this game seriously, especially last time playing at home."
Crenshaw said the Panthers took Saturday's 6A-West finals personal.
"I think they were kind of disappointed what happened on senior night," Crenshaw said. "They feel like they're a good team. They read the comments from Russellville saying that we didn't deserve to win down there. This is just motivation for us to keep playing. Controversial goal or not, we got the 'W' and that's huge for us going into the state tournament."
Crenshaw also was happy that the Panthers got to win the conference championship on their home field. Last year they upset Russellville 2-1 at Cyclone Stadium for the conference title on their way to winning their second straight state title.
"Really happy for the kids," Crenshaw said. "You know the boys were conference champions last year but they had to do it at Russellville. On senior night, I was a little disappointed for our boys to lose like that. For them to come off their last game on their turf with a 'W' and a conference win against a Russellville, that's something they won't ever forget."
With the win, the Panthers earned the No. 1 seed for the Class 6A State Tournament this week in Russellville. The Cyclones, meanwhile will be the No. 2 seed, and both teams received a first-round bye on Thursday. Siloam Springs will play at 4 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday's game between East No. 4 Little Rock Hall and West No. 5 Texarkana. Russellville will play against the winner of East No. 3 Searcy and West No. 6 Sheridan.
"This one mattered a little bit for the conference championship, but I think what everybody cares about is the state championship," Fuller said. "We'll see if they can bring that same kind of play into our house for the playoffs and even get there this year. If we do get there, then we'll see how the best refs in the state ref a game at a neutral site in Fayetteville."
Fuller then questioned why the 6A-West title game was played in Siloam Springs and why the Panthers were voted the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament by the league coaches.
"I don't even know why we're playing this game here when we were the better team," Fuller said. "We beat them 4-1, should have had the 1 seed."
The Panthers and Cyclones could be destined for a fourth meeting, but it would be in the state finals.
"They're a very good team. That could very easily happen," Crenshaw said. "We've got to take care of business first though. We're banged up. We've got to get healed up and get ready for Friday. You're in the state tournament now, so you're playing good teams every day. You can't think to anything except Friday right now.Sports on 05/09/2018
Print Headline: Controversial goal goes Panthers' way