Using the formula that’s been working all season — a smothering defense, and at least one big kick from a talented forward — the Centennial boys soccer team earned its first-ever state tournament berth.
The No. 2 seeded Cougars (15-3-1) edged top-seeded Champlin Park 1-0 on Tuesday evening for the Section 5AA championship, avenging a close conference loss to the Rebels (10-4-2).
“The kids were calm and played hard, focused soccer,” coach Jeff Ottosen said. “We never gave them (Rebels) opportunities. It was almost a perfect game (defensively).”
On a bone-chilling evening with temperature at 45 degrees and a stiff wind, the lone goal was delivered by Demetrius Bernardy-Nelson on a free kick in the first half. The junior forward teed it up from the 20-yard line and slammed the ball into the far upper corner — his 28th goal of the season.
That was all the Cougars needed with their defensive corps posting its 10th shutout of the season, permitting only two shots on goal against Ricky Hemric.
“Champlin is very good. They are solid all the way across and very deep,” said Ottosen about the opponent that beat them 2-1 in double overtime on Sept 4. “They can sub and not lose anything.”
Ottosen said the Cougars have reached section finals "three or four times" before and this was the first time they've ever broken through to state.
The state tournament will be drawn up this weekend. The first round of games will be outdoors at dates to be determined. The semifinals and finals will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium Oct. 30 and Nov. 2.