Western Catholic Football Amazes Unity Christian: “You’ll Never See This Again”
West Catholic pulled off one of the biggest upsets in last week’s state soccer tournament quarterfinals when the Falcons beat Unity Christian 2-1.
You really had to be there to believe how the Falcons did it, though. And even then, it was still hard to believe.
“I’m like ‘No way, not at all.’ I had to say it 10 times, âsaid West Catholic coach Randy Tran.
Here’s what was so amazing:
The Falcons 7-9-2 took a 1-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half against the third-ranked Division 3 team when leader Benjamin James’ free kick led to Henry Ripple’s shot . down and bouncing off the back of the net. West Catholic continued to lead and appeared to be tied in the semifinals when the Crusaders knocked out the Falcons late in the game, scoring with seven seconds left in regulation to tie the game 1-1.
Overtime seemed inevitable.
“After they score, obviously your head goes down and you think they have the momentum for extra time,” said Connor Foley, Catholic junior from the West. âI was coming up slowly and Carson (Beekman) our striker pulled me to the side and told me to shoot. He hit the ball and I ran from the semicircle and just got a hit.
Foley said he couldn’t remember the shot he took halfway through, even in the air. What he saw was the ball passing over Unity’s goalkeeper and into the net. He remembers the West Catholic bench rushing onto the pitch to celebrate the victory.
âAs soon as I kicked off I honestly thought it was great to get off my foot,â Foley said. âIt felt good. I was confident it would be in the net area hopefully. I could not believe it. It was a great feeling.
The win sends the Falcons to Monday’s semifinals in the Fennville District. The Falcons will face Covenant Christian in a game at 5 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Monday’s 7 p.m. semi-final between Wyoming Lee and Holland Christian in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. district final.
âI’ve never seen a faster change of emotions, and that’s why we love the game,â Tran said of Thursday’s win. âI can’t even explain it. You can see a last minute winner in any sport. But to see a last second winner right after a last second winner and get hit from 50 to 60 yards, you’ll never see that again.
âI watch the boys (after Unity scores) and we don’t say much, but Connor decides he’s going to lead by his actions. Every practice, Connor brings. Connor Foley has sacrificed so much of his time. I have never seen a player work harder, with more enthusiasm and energy. It only inspires you.
The Falcons have lost to the Crusaders twice in the regular season, both by a score of 3-0. But the Falcons have beaten the odds since the start of the season, so they weren’t going to count each other.
âWe had almost no soccer program this year,â Tran said. âWe had five or six seniors, and at one point we have 15 players on the squad and no JV and no freshman team. We have five freshmen.
“I think we were against all odds from the start, and that was just another challenge the guys were facing this season.”
This is Tran’s second season as the Falcons coach. Tran was quick to congratulate West Catholic assistant coaches Byung-Jin Lee and Christian Galloway on the team’s success this fall.
âThe game plan was designed by Byung-Jin Lee,â Tran said. âHe’s an East Kentwood alumnus, my right-hand man and one of my closest friends. When it comes to football and tactics, I trust him more than anyone in the world. He won two state titles at East Kentwood. He has a playing resume, but when it comes to training and his tactics, the way he thinks and cross-coach, I don’t think we would be in that place without him.
âChristian Galloway is the heart of the team. He’s a West Catholic graduate and a familiar person our guys trust. I don’t think they would have bought so much if we hadn’t had someone like Christian Galloway.