The King’s Warriors Soccer Club closed out the 2019 fall soccer season at the 40th Annual National Association of Christian Athletes Fall Soccer Tournament. The team turned a lot of heads and won a lot of hearts with their “never-say-die” attitude, especially since they were playing with only 10 men (actually, 9 guys and 1 girl!).
After traveling to Dayton, TN, the King’s Warriors entered “pool play” on Wednesday, October 23. Their first opponent was Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Rosedale, MD. The Warriors gave up an early goal, but then settled down and played a great game. Caleb Ihimbazwe scored to bring the Warriors to within one early in the second half, but FCA scored late in the game for a 3-1 win. That one goal proved crucial in Division 3 seeding. The FCA team went on to win the “pool pay” division and ultimately finished third in the entire tournament, and openly rated the King’s Warriors as one of the best teams they played.
If game #1 was a great match, game #2 was the opposite. Liberty Christian Academy, from Richlands, NC, played their first game against the King’s Warriors, while it was the Warriors second game after just a two hour rest period. With no subs and not even a full team, the Warriors simply could not withstand Liberty’s oppressive offensive onslaught. Liberty rolled to a 7-0 win, yet just a few hours later lost to the FCA team that had narrowly defeated the Warriors.
Two losses placed the King’s Warriors in Division 3, but the one goal provided a #6 seed against #3 seed Rhea County Christian Academy, the local team. They had met just the previous year, and Rhea County had come away 2-0 victors. This year was totally different, and after a night’s rest, the King’s Warriors came out Thursday morning, October 24, firing on all cylinders. Caleb Ihimbazwe scored in the first half, then Zach Fink scored what would prove to be the game winner early in the second half. Rhea County found a spark of hope when they scored to pull within 1, but Chance Blevins snuffed it out with a great goal shortly thereafter. Ihimbazwe put the icing on the cake shortly before time to claim the 4-1 win. The win put the Warriors in the Division 3 championship bracket, and guaranteed the rest of the day off.
On Friday morning, October 25, the Warriors faced off against Cumberland Valley Christian School from Chambersburg, PA. The Warriors had a brief vision of grandeur when Ihimbazwe broke through the defense to post a 1-0 lead, but it was all Cumberland Valley from there on. They fielded a tough 11 man team, and substituted often and liberally, to grind down the 10-man King’s Warriors. Several things could have gone differently to provide a more respectable score, but Cumberland Valley was definitely the stronger team, and deserved their 7-1 win.
The final match pitted the King’s Warriors against Trinity Christian School from Opelika, AL. Worn down and exhausted the King’s Warriors opened the game with only 9 players, but were committed to “finishing the course.” Amazingly, the Warriors proved to be the dominant team and controlled the run of play right from the start. They were able to return to a 10-man side again jut before the half, which ended in a scoreless stalemate. The second half looked promising, until the referee blew the whistle for a very debatable hand ball. Trinity scored the PK and held on to claim a controversial 1-0 win.
The King’s Warriors placed 4th in Division 3, which is the highest finish the Warriors have had in their eight NACA appearances. Co-captain Dakota Jack Spurgin was named to the All Tournament Team, and was also named Division 3 MVP Goal Keeper. Caleb Ihimbazwe scored 4 goals, and Chance Blevins and Zach Fink each added 1. Eli Blevins, Ailena Bezek, and Jonah Blevins provided great mid-field support. Co-captains Caleb Okes and Andrew Smith, along with Aaron Smith, were essential at their back line positions. These players represented the King’s Warriors well and continued to uphold their reputation of commitment, sportsmanship, and perseverance.