The celebration following Gar-Field's 1-0 boys' soccer victory against Woodbridge on Tuesday night was unlike anything the Indians had seen in a long, long time.
That's because the dancing, smiling Indians and their drenched coach, Tom Kraft -- the victim of an on-target water-barrel dousing -- had won their first Cardinal District regular season title since 1981.
"We wanted this really bad because we hadn't won since back in 1981. I mean I wasn't even born yet," said junior midfielder Damfi Parker, who was born in 1986. "We didn't get any respect in the beginning because of years before, and we wanted to win this one and get our name out there."
With the victory last night, the visiting Indians (7-5-1, 5-1 Cardinal) finished their regular season on a six-game winning streak and with seven wins in eight games.
In the early girls' game, Woodbridge extended its winning streak to five with a 1-0 victory. Vikings senior forward Becca Mumley scored in the 15th minute, and the Vikings (7-6, 3-2) received continued good play from a defense that has allowed just two goals in those five games.
Woodbridge's girls avenged a 3-0 loss to Gar-Field (7-5-2, 3-2-1) and set the stage for today's matchup with the district's top team, Forest Park.
"This was a big game because it gives us confidence heading into districts and going against Forest Park," said Mumley, the Vikings' leading scorer with seven goals. "We have relied on our defense a lot this season, and that's why we have to get the early goal."
In the boys' game, it was Parker who gave the Indians their advantage, though it did not come early. Junior Darrien Ruggles delivered a well placed assist in the 39th minute to Parker, who headed the ball into the right corner of the Woodbridge goal.
But it was Gar-Field sophomore goalkeeper Colby Powers who several times preserved the Indians' lead. In the midst of a physical game that featured six yellow cards, Powers three times in the first half thwarted Woodbridge attackers with clear shots on goal.
"It was a pressure game, and I thought their goalkeeper played a good game," said Woodbridge Coach Bill Lanza, whose Vikings fell to 7-4-3 and 3-1-1 in the district. "But to summarize it, I would say that we had the opportunities -- we just didn't capitalize."
Indeed, the Vikings came achingly close in the final 10 minutes courtesy of four right-bending free kicks by left-footed junior midfielder Ernesto Marquez. The last of those free kicks was headed into the goal by junior midfielder William Parada, but Parada was ruled offsides.
"I think this was the tale of two seasons for us because in the first half of the season we were losing some close games," said Kraft, in his first year as Gar-Field coach. "I don't know if there was a particular point in our season where we turned things around, but the last time we played [Woodbridge] I thought we played well, and I think that eventually we started to believe."