MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Twenty-two players, two goals, one checkered ball and a whole lot of green. The mayhem ensued Thursday night as four teams took to the grass of Felix Field to compete in the Commanding General’s Intramural Soccer League.
With three of those four teams going into the games undefeated, only Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School and Headquarters Battalion 2 would emerge peerless. HQBN 2 shut out VMU-1 6-0, and MCCES slid by HQBN 1 for an 9-8 win in a sudden death shootout.
"They did very well tonight," said Ruby Lona, VMU-1 coach of her team. "But tonight I had four players where it was their first time on the field, and in fact the first time I ever saw them was today."
"This was the team that they played in a scrimmage where they lost 16-0," Lona continued. "There is a lot of inexperience on the team. We actually made two goals tonight, but they were offsides, and that comes from inexperience unfortunately."
Although VMU-1 was able to repel HQBN 2’s offenses and only allow two goals to be scored in the first half, HQBN 2 came out strong the second half and slipped four more by the keeper.
"We did well tonight," said John Bass, the undefeated HQBN 2 coach. "Our biggest strength is our midfield. I think I have theabsolute best midfield in the league this year."
"They are experienced players and their ball handling skills are better than any other team I’ve seen out here," continued Bass. "The last great team I saw to have this much control was MCCES last year, who went on to win the championships."
The second game of the evening pitted undefeated teams HQBN 1 and MCCES against each other for a showdown that would send one away with their first loss of the season.
The ball zigzagged and sailed high over the field back and forth as both teams scrambled to get a foothold and a lead. By the half, the game was tied 3-3.
"It was a tough game tonight," said Leonard T. Weber, MCCES head coach. "We were playing a man down the entire second half and had two injuries as well."
Even with MCCES players down and both teams running at full sprint, the second half came to a close with a tie of 4-4 and went into a sudden death shootout, where five players of each team attempt to score penalty kicks and take a lead.
With the pressure mounting on both goalies and kickers, one after another fired goals past the keepers until a HQBN 1 falter opened the opportunity for a MCCES win.
Juan "O.J." Orejel answered the call and delivered the final goal to win the game for MCCES 9-8 and maintain their undefeated status.
"I had a guy pop a hamstring and had to go to the hospital and another guy might have cracked a rib," said Weber. "But they never quit and are always motivated."
"Moving the ball is not our problem; coordinating our attacks more precisely is where we need work, and we’ll improve as the season continues," said Weber. "We gave HQBN 1 their first loss tonight, and it was a tough game for both of us."
Soccer fans can see games every Tuesday and Thursday night starting at 5:30 p.m. at Felix Field.