Luke Shoemaker wrapped up his postgame interview, ran to the locker room and blew through the door and shouted loud enough for all of Lion Stadium to hear.
"Let's go!" the 29-year-old, energetic first-year Siloam Springs boys soccer coach shouted at his Panthers, who moments earlier had just defeated Mountain Home 1-0 in the Class 5A State Semifinals in Searcy.
The Panthers responded with cheers and singing a round of "olé, olé, olé." Maybe some of you have seen the video of the celebration on Instagram.
It was a great scene for a team that's come a long way and overcome much adversity to reach the program's 10th state finals.
Nothing about this last week's state tournament was easy for the Siloam Springs boys.
First there was a 2-1 victory over Little Rock Hall in a mud pit on Thursday in the opening round with the game's deciding goal coming on a penalty kick by Eli Jackson in the second half.
Then there was a 2-1 victory in extra time over defending 5A state champion Hot Springs Lakeside -- again on a muddy field -- in the quarterfinals Friday with Jackson again providing the heroics with a rocket shot in the 84th minute.
And then there was the 1-0 win against the Bombers on Saturday on the turf at Lion Stadium. Siloam Springs scored the goal when Danny Daugherty took advantage of an open net in the 52nd minute. The Panthers then defended their tails off for the next 28 minutes to preserve the shutout.
They did all this with one of their best players -- senior midfielder Christian Marroquin -- on the shelf with a broken foot. Also junior starter Thad Wright went down with an injury
They did all this battling poor field conditions on Thursday and Friday and then a bigger, physically stronger Mountain Home team on Saturday.
There were heroes all over the place. How about goalkeeper Wyatt Church and only two goals allowed against three really good teams? How about senior Miguel Granados off the bench for a big-time goal in first half against Lakeside?
How about center back Carson Wleklinski clearing a ball off the back line against Lakeside?
How about a solid aggressive second half from guys like Jose Posada, Julio Maldonado, Alejandro Palacios and Sam Jackson for going up against bigger Mountain Home kids and not backing down one inch.
That's how the Panthers have gotten this far. It's the "you over me" mentality the team has embraced. Now the team has one more hurdle to clear for a state title, and hopefully another round of "Olé."
-- Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sports on 05/15/2019
Print Headline: Nothing easy for Panthers