Black Mountain – Fifty-goal scorer Davis Kendall and first-year head coach Trei Morrison led Charles D. Owen Warhorses to the 2A soccer state title, winning the final match in a dramatic shootout.
Owen (22-2-1) won six soccer playoff matches – culminating in the state finals on Friday, Nov. 18. This is hailed as the school’s first soccer state title ever. Owen also won the 2A state cross country title this fall.
Kendall, a sophomore forward, totaled a school-record 50 goals in the regular season and playoffs combined. He and his elder brother Harrison Kendall, a senior midfielder, were named all-state. Elijah Caro, a junior, scored 20 goals and led the team with 16 assists.
Winning the state title “felt like it was meant to be,” Harrison Kendall said.
Davis Kendall’s biggest goals of all were in the final two matches. He scored a sudden death overtime “golden goal” to beat Lincoln Charter 5-4 at home on Nov. 15 in a semifinal. He blasted the ball up and to his right side of the net, on a direct kick. Kendall scored four goals on that day. Owen beat the team that ousted it a season earlier.
In the state final match near Winston-Salem three days later, he scored Owen’s sole regulation goal to tie fourth-seeded Clinton Dark Horses 1-1 and to reach the 50-goal plateau. Kendall dribbled to his right, got the goalkeeper to move that way and slide down. Kendall slid the ball to his left into the net. His goal came with merely three minutes left in regulation.
Davis Kendall said that “it felt pretty good knowing we equalized it at that critical stage of the game. After that, I knew we would win.” He said that scoring 50 goals “was a goal of mine since the beginning of the season. All the hard work paid off.”
Senior Nino Luther and junior Daniel Garcia assisted on that tying goal. Coach Morrison said that typically, “when we give up a goal, we score within the next five minutes.” Not so in the finals. Clinton clogged its end to protect its 1-0 lead. Harrison Kendall said, “Everyone knew we would score eventually. We had the ball for the very large majority of the game.”
Coach Morrison noted that Owen nearly scored several times, but did not overpress on offense. “We were attacking and creating chances. We didn’t get too antsy, and go too direct. I didn’t see a lot of nerves. We played with intensity — from start to finish.”
That final match went to a shootout, after four scoreless overtime periods totaling 30 minutes. There was no time for “horsing around” in the shootout, as the Warhorses and Dark Horses took turns going one-on-one against the opposing goalkeeper. The first set had five shot takers per side. The Warhorses won the coin toss. They had Clinton shoot first, to know what they had to do. “We could answer anything Clinton did,” Coach Morrison reasoned. Clinton’s first shooter shot wide.
Davis Kendall led off for Owen and scored. He nailed his shot to the net’s left corner.“The keeper was good,” he said. “So I had to make sure to place the ball — but also with enough pace to score if he guessed the right way.”
Coach Morrison said he led off with Davis Kendall to get the jump on the Dark Horses, instead of saving him for the pivotal fifth slot to conclude the first round of five shooters. “I knew Davis would be good for his goal. So he went first.” The strategy worked. Owen was up 1-0 after one shooter each.
Clinton scored on its next three tries to tie it at 3-3 after four shooters. Owen’s Garcia then Caro both scored. But in the fourth frame, Owen senior defenseman Dominic Sanchez-Merida missed.
Swooping Savior Swoke
Clinton could take its first lead, if its fifth and final shooter scored. But this was senior Owen goalkeeper Nolan Swoke’s moment to sparkle. He dove sharply to the side to “parry” (swat) the ball away for a save. “Nolan read it really well,” Coach Morrison said. “We ask our ‘keepers’ to wait. The ‘old-school’ way is to pick a side, and go that way and hope. The newer way is to wait,” and to rely on quick reaction. “Nolan was patient. He stayed on his toes. He made a good dive and save. Nolan has such strong wrists. We teach keepers ‘don’t try to catch it.’ Knock it away.”
Swoke allowed merely 0.781 goals per contest. His save kept the shootout tied at 3-3.
Hero Harrison Wins It!
The save set up Harrison Kendall to win the match and state title — if he scored. “I had no question about Harry kicking fifth,” Coach Morrison said. “He’s so calm and composed. I told him before we left Asheville he’d play a big role. Then I told him before OT it was his time. And as soon as Nolan saved their final shot and it was Harry’s turn, I knew he’d score.”
Harrison Kendall said he felt very “confident” he could out-maneuver the goalkeeper. He got the goalie to commit to a direction, and kicked it the other way. The short goalkeeper limited reach. “I knew he would have to dive earlier than most do to save a shot — either going right or left,” Harrison Kendall reasoned.
He improvised and altered his path. “Before I walked up to shoot, I made up in my mind that I would go to my right — to his left. I changed my mind last second, when I saw him make his initial move. He was inching to my right. I knew could just hit it anywhere left and it would go in. So, that’s what I did.” He kicked the ball to the center of the goal and into the net.
“Everything I had done in soccer led up to that final kick, and to score it and win the tournament with a team I love is something I’ll never forget,” Harrison Kendall said.
He said, “I thought what Coach Trei did at the (pre-shootout) break was very smart — not hyping us up too much. He kept everybody pretty calm and level-headed,” hydrated and rested. Coach Morrison said, “I talked to (goalkeeper) Nolan, to make sure his mindset was good. I’m not a ‘rah-rah’ guy. If they get too fired up, they can drop off the ledge” in intensity and energy. “I give them a little ‘amp’” of a pep talk.
In general, Coach Morrison said that “I’m a situational guy. We try to make teams play to us, to what we’re doing” with ball control. “We do tweak what we do.”
He coached the Kendalls, Hendersonville’s Cooper King, Reynolds’ Sean Green and others for years on Highland Football Club elite youth travel squads. Harrison Kendall said, “Under Coach Morrison, many players improved greatly. His constant go-getter attitude and competitiveness in practice and games made everyone better. He had a tactic for almost every part of the game. His tactics played a major role in our success.”