By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Talking about it afterward, Cole Johnson, one of just three senior starters among the Norman North boys, said Owasso actually kept Carson Cacciatore, who’d caught fire as a postseason goal machine, pretty bottled up.
And, though the box score from the Timberwolves’ 2-0 Class 6A state title soccer victory over Owasso includes an assist for Mauro Cichero, and while the North superstar had opportunities, it’s not like he was the one who made the singular plays that put the T-Wolves over the top.
Instead, the goals belonged to Sage Moore and Ethan Dvorak. One of the assists — a lot more direct than Cichero’s — belonged to Seth Liddell.
“We started out with a lot of energy, getting to second balls,” Cichero said. “Those two goals just came from being smart and getting to the second ball.”
That and execution.
Also, there were the two times Owasso put the ball behind North keeper Alex Precilla only to have Jake Neighbors calmly keep it out of the net in the first half and Liddell chase back to it and clear in the second.
Apparently, the Timberwolves, all of them, can play the game.
Because Saturday, at John Crain Field, North did not exactly dominate Owasso. Possession was mostly a 50-50 proposition and, by the time it was over, the Rams actually had more shots (11) than the T-Wolves (9).
Yet only North made the plays that mattered, putting the ball into one net and keeping it out of the other. It’s that kind of execution that has the T-Wolves state champions for a fifth time, including two of the last three seasons and three of the last five.
“I think it really just establishes us as a dynasty here,” junior defender Jacob Jerles said. “It really shows that we’re a top tier program and that next year you can’t count us out to do it again.”
Though possession was close, it was also clear, maybe 15 or 20 minutes into the second half, that Owasso wasn’t coming back and the Rams appeared to know it better than anybody.
Soon enough, their play turned chippy, the biggest example being the blow delivered by Colton Johnson that robbed North senior defender Adam Cooper, at least momentarily, of a couple of teeth.
The referee missed that one, but caught Ram defender Chaz Birkenfield blatantly pulling Cichero down from behind, earning a red card late in the second half.
Though nobody might have known, North scored the only goal it would need just 2:51 into the game.
Johnson’s free kick was cleared by the Ram defense, only to have the ball come bounce toward Liddell, who didn’t bother to stop it before re-serving it directly to the head of Moore, who flicked it expertly past Owasso keeper Daniel Finkle.
“They left me wide open and Seth just hit it right to me,” Moore said.
Less than 71⁄2 minutes later Johnson was playing a free kick from about 50 yards out and into traffic inside the box. Cichero got higher than everybody, but not high enough to direct so much as stop it. That ball found the foot of Ethan Dvorak, who had to contend with a defender sprawled in front of him. He played the ball over the defender and, after jumping over the Ram, to himself. From there, a scrambling Finkle had no chance to get in the way.
“To be honest, the goals we did score were probably the more difficult goals. We could have shut the door on them a little earlier in the second half … but their keeper came up big and we just missed.”
Precilla made four saves, but didn’t have to stand on his head to stop any of the Rams’ offerings. And when a scramble left him out of position, he had the help from Neighbors and Liddell.
“We’ve developed a tight bond together and we’ve learned to trust on another,” Precilla said. “They know I’m going to make mistakes and they’re going to cover for me.”
Only it didn’t only happen deep in North’s penalty box. Everywhere. Timberwolves were covering for Timberwolves, making plays and stopping others.
Like no other team in the state.
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