MILWAUKEE — The third time was the charm for the Mount Horeb boys soccer team.
After coming up short in its first two state title showdowns against Delavan-Darien, the Vikings finally broke through against the Comets in Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 state final at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Mount Horeb scored both its goals on penalty kicks and mounted a relentless defensive effort to earn a 2-1 victory.
With the score tied at 1-1 late in the second half, the Comets fouled Kyler Donovan in the box to set up a penalty kick opportunity. Senior Jacob Culberson took the shot and pounded it past goalkeeper Hugo Valadez to the right side of the net.
The Vikings’ stout defense, which contained the Comets all evening, never let up the rest of the way to deliver Mount Horeb its third state championship.
“Usually I’m pretty calm when I’m taking PKs, so I’m just keeping breathing and picking where you are going before shooting it,” Culberson said. “That’s what I did and I slotted it in.”
This was the third time in the past four seasons that the Vikings and Comets ended the season in the Division 3 final. The Comets won 3-1 in 2014 and 2-1 in 2016.
In 2015 when they didn’t meet, the Vikings won the title with a 2-1 victory over Rice Lake.
As significant as the penalty kicks were, the Vikings’ defense was just as impressive.
Mount Horeb (19-4-1) held high-powered Delavan-Darien to four shots on goal. Zeus Huerta and Jason Cano, who combined to score 101 goals this season, had only two shots on goal.
“We thought this game maybe we’d take a little bit more conservative approach because we know they like to come after you the first 15,” Donovan said. “We just tried to absorb the pressure and tire them out a little bit, and we did it well. Then we went back to our regular lineup, and (defenders) Tommy Winkler and Carter Johnson did a great job.”
Senior Jaden Neumann, a tri-captain and four-year varsity performer with Culberson and Donovan, achieved a bit of history when opening the scoring with his goal on the penalty kick in the 23rd minute. The goal was his fifth of the tourney — he had four in Mount Horeb’s 6-1 semifinal win over Amery — to set a Division 3 record for goals in a tournament.
He also leaves the school as its all-time leading scorer, and his class as a four-time finalist and two-time champion.
“It’s crazy to think about right now,” he said of the accomplishments. “Our senior class has left the biggest mark in the history of the program. I wouldn’t want it to end any other way than with a gold ball.”
Delavan-Darien 0 1 — 1
Mount Horeb 1 1 — 2
First half: MH — Neumann (pk), 22:43.
Second half: DD — Torres, 68:29. MH — Culberson (pk), 78:40.
Shots: DD 9-5-14, MH 5-3-8. Shots on goal: DD 4, MH 4. Saves: DD (Valadez) 0-2-2; MH (Leis) 2-1-3. Corner kicks: DD 4-4-8, MH 2-1-3. Offside: DD 1, MH 1. Yellow cards: DD — Cano 1, Torres 1.