High school boys soccer: Judge three-peats as the 3A state champion with narrow win over top-seeded Morgan
Nahuel Batalla scored the game-winning goal for Judge as the Bulldogs beat Morgan 1-0 to win the 3A state soccer title at Rio Tinto Stadium
After his team’s quarterfinal win versus Summit Academy nearly six days ago, Judge Memorial head coach Kelly Terrill was asked how much thought his team had given to the state championship three-peat they could potentially accomplish if they won this year’s title. Terrill’s response was simple: “None.”
But right after Judge secured the 3A state championship three-peat Tuesday afternoon by beating Morgan 1-0, Terrill was asked once again when he and his team began to think about the potential three-peat.
Once again, his answer was simple: “Just now,” he said with a smile. “This team surprised me, they really did. They’ve got a lot of heart.”
The heart Terrill referenced was always going to be necessary if Judge was going to pull off the upset over a top-seeded Morgan team that had only lost two games and conceded nine goals all season coming into the title game.
After a back-and-forth first half that didn’t see either side open up, Judge found its breakthrough at the beginning of the second half.
Just 27 seconds after the official blew his whistle to begin the final 40 minutes, Judge freshman and team-leading goal scorer John Chadwick sent an in-swinging cross from the left side of the pitch toward fellow freshman Nahuel Batalla, who got a foot to the cross and volleyed the ball into the back of Morgan’s goal. The goal would be the only goal scored in the game.
Batalla, who joined the team just prior to the state tournament due to club soccer obligations, recorded his first goal of the season with the volley.
“There was a gap between the center back and the left back, and I just went into the gap and the ball was perfectly crossed and I just tapped it in,” Batalla said of his winner.
The goal was the 10th goal the Trojans had conceded all season — five of the 10 goals were scored by Judge.
“This team surprised me, they really did. They’ve got a lot of heart.” — Judge Memorial coach Kelly Terrill
“I just crossed it to Nahuel, he put it in and it was a great finish,” Chadwick said.
The cross was Chadwick’s sixth assist of the season, which also led the team.
“We were talking about how John’s not going to win one v. one against their outside back,” Terrill said when asked what halftime adjustments allowed his team to score so quickly into the second half. “We wanted to have (Chadwick) come inside and then play it — where he played it was up to him — but he played it in a good spot. Nahuel was on the end of it and got a nice touch on the ball for the goal.”
The attack wasn’t the only aspect of the Bulldogs’ game that took some time to adjust. Judge’s defense rallied to limit 3A’s top-scoring team to its first scoreless game of the season, but it wasn’t on lockdown to begin the game.
“Defensively, we were struggling to win the 50-50 balls at the beginning of the game and we were getting beat on the outside a lot,” Terrill said. “We cleaned it up towards the end of the first half and then, you know, we played pretty solid the remainder of the game.”
On a per game basis, Morgan had averaged just over five goals per game coming into the championship match.
“Every single one of them had a great game,” Chadwick said of his back line. “The first 10 minutes was a little shaky, but then we got the ropes of it and everybody was just on lockdown.”
Just a few minutes after Judge scored the opening goal, it appeared that Morgan scored the equalizing goal after Bulldogs’ keeper Kolby Sessions made a diving save that deflected right to Morgan’s Ty Warner, who passed the ball into the goal, but the offside flag was raised. The moment was undoubtedly heartbreaking for Morgan supporters who wildly celebrated the goal for nearly 15 seconds before realizing what had actually occurred.
Surviving that scare, the Bulldogs were able to mark and defend at a high level the rest of the game to secure the clean sheet and Terrill’s third state title in his four seasons as head coach.
Terrill said he hopes the three-peat brings even greater attention to the Judge Memorial program.
“I’m hoping that we can get some more soccer players to come to Judge,” Terrill said. “We’re a very small school. I have 30 players that came out (for soccer tryouts) and 30 players are here, nobody got cut. So to play big schools is hard for us and we need every player we can get.”
For young freshmen like Chadwick and Batalla, the hope is that the title win will be the first of many for them in the three more years of eligibility they have remaining.
“It’s just going to get better next season,” Chadwick said. “I want to play these next few years with Judge, keep trying our best and keep winning championships. It’s really fun to play with this team. We’re so tight-knit.”