Tony Harringer | Staff Writer

Century College’s Men’s Soccer team had such an impressive first half of the season, collecting three straight shutouts, and winning four of their first five games to equal last year’s total. Their consistent and solid play helped them on the scoreboard and impressed a lot of teams. The second half of the season started off with a game against Lake Superior on the Sept. 23.

The game had an interesting backstory. If Century could win the game, they could jump to the number one seed in the region. Century came out as they had during their three-game winning streak, dominating play and possession. As Century battled and attacked though, Lake Superior had an answer to each of them. Despite leading in shots, it was 0-0 at the half.

In the second half, the play continued in Century’s favor, but still could not come through on the score sheet. Finally a goal was scored in the 67th minute, not by Century, but by Lake Superior. Century battled the rest of the way, but could not pull even and lost 1-0 against Lake Superior.

Despite the loss, exciting news came that Toby Bridges had been recognized by the United Soccer Coaches National Player recognition as the Junior College Player of the Week! This was the first time that anyone from Century College had been given this honor.

The Wood Ducks next played on the 29th against Anoka-Ramsey, a team they had beaten earlier in the year. Anoka-Ramsey put Century into shock, as they scored just one minute into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Then in the 36th minute, Anoka-Ramsey got a 2-0 lead. Century looked down and out, but responded with a goal from Klinton Spencer to make it 2-1.

Century celebrates a goal against Anoka-Ramsey.
Photo Credit: Christopher Juhn

The score stood till halftime. Spencer, one minute into the second half scored again, and all of a sudden the game was tied. Century had great chances to get the go-ahead goal, but could not convert. After two overtime sessions, the game was finally called a 2-2 tie.

Century next played Madison (Wisconsin) College at home on the first of October and were ready to get their fifth win on the campaign. Last game, Century allowed a goal in the first minute, well this time it was Century’s turn, as Madison had an own goal that credited to Spencer, his third goal in the last two games. Then in the 27th minute, from 20 yards out, Brandon Watts scored top far corner to make it 2-0.

The Wood Ducks continued their great play into the second half, scoring in the 59th minute, when Dylan White scored top far corner again to stretch the lead to 3-0. Madison scored a late goal, but Century won convincingly, 3-1 to improve to 5-2-1 on the season.

On the 6th, Century could clinch the #2 seed in the region with a win over Riverland. It was a cold and windy day for soccer, but both teams were ready. Both teams traded chances and as the game got on, it became very chippy between the teams. In total, seven yellow cards were handed out. Two players were given a red card and kicked out of the game.

The game remained scoreless into the late minutes. Bridges was awarded a penalty kick in the 80th minute and converted to give Century a 1-0 lead as rain started pouring down from the sky. Unfortunately, that was short-lived as Riverland tied it just a few minutes later. Then in the final minutes, Riverland was awarded a free kick on a questionable call and scored to give them a 2-1 last second victory.

Century did not have a lot of time to complain over the game, as they had a game against Marshalltown, a championship contender with a 10-1 record, just two days later. Century stayed with the highly respected Marshalltown, but in the 22nd minute the Tigers finally got the icebreaker to go up 1-0. Century offensively just could not break through. Their passes were off because of Marshalltown’s great defensive play.

It was only a 1-0 lead at the half, but Coach Ryan Hodgson made it clear they could be better and motivated them to do better in the second half. Just one minute in however, Marshalltown doubled its lead to two and that pretty much sealed the game. Century fought and pushed to break Marshalltown’s defense, but never could and lost 2-0.

The Wood Ducks were looking to rebound in their next game at Gustavus on the 12th, and they came out strong. In the 20th minute Bashidi Ndzembomenyi scored for the Wood Ducks to give them their first goal since Bridges’ penalty kick against Riverland. Unfortunately, just three minutes remained before halftime Gustavus tied it at one.

The second half was pretty equal, each team getting chances and then it went to overtime. Finally in the 104th minute, defender Hector Trigueros got the game-winning goal to give Century a 2-1 win and a much needed victory to improve to 6-3-2.

With their recent success, Century climbed to the #15 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Junior College Division III Men’s National Poll and looked to win their season finale against Lake Superior on Oct. 15. The Wood Ducks had already clinched the second seed in their region, but looked to improve on things.

The game started off really well for Century, as Bridges once again added his name to the goal list as he scored in the 10th minute to give them a 1-0 lead. Just a few minutes before halftime, Dylan White doubled the Wood Duck’s lead to 2-0 in the 37th minute.

The second half was all Century as they connected three times and got goals from Ndzembomenyi, Oman John, and White, who scored his second of the game as Century cruised to a 5-1 victory and finished with a 7-3-2 regular season record..

All the Wood Duck’s eyes shifted to the Region XIII Tournament as Century was set to play Anoka-Ramsey on the 18th. These two had played each other in last year’s Region XIII tournament that was won by Anoka-Ramsey, 4-1. They also played twice during the season, with Century taking the first meeting, 4-2, and the second meeting ended in a 2-2 tie. The stage was set for a great game.

The first half was very even, but a late corner-kick by Anoka-Ramsey led to a goal that put them up 1-0 at the half. Century came out in the second half and “Mr. Reliable,” Bridges, was awarded a free kick that he converted and Century tied the game at 1! The Wood Ducks had a few rushes that could have resulted in goals, but they just weren’t able to finish them as the game stayed tied at 1.

The game had reached the regulation limit and the game was still tied, so they went to three 10-minute OT periods, which neither team flinched and the game was sent to penalty kicks to determine a victor.

Anoka-Ramsey was up first and scored. Century responded to tie the PKs at 1. Anoka-Ramsey retook the lead, but Century could not respond as they missed and were shocked. Anoka put even more pressure as they scored again to take a two-goal lead in the PK. Once again, the bad luck hit the Wood Ducks as they missed their shot. Anoka-Ramsey sealed the victory with one more PK goal and the game was over…

The Wood Duck’s season was over, but despite their unfortunate ending, the players had a lot to be proud of this season. In his first year as coach, Hodgson had almost doubled the win total from last year’s season. A lot can be said about this team, but most importantly, they stuck together the whole season, fought for each other, won and lost as a team.

According to Hodgson, coming into this season, he had only one returning player. He was also given the head coaching position just 30 days before their season was scheduled to start, so to think despite all of these obstacles, this team was able to step up and win seven games and make it to the tournament as a #2 seed in the region.

Hodgson called this season a “massive success,” saying the players had success on the field, as well as in the classroom. He also praised the team’s spectacular defense. This season was in addition very important for them, because Hodgson said this helps with recruiting and helps get better players to come play for Century.

So, what a year, huh? Going from a team last year that was struggling to find an identity and a purpose, to a team with so many achievements that they will remember forever. This team, that had never played together before this season developed a great chemistry and a brotherhood within them. When the going got tough, they kept their heads up and fought until the final whistle. This team will always be the team that defied the odds and proved a lot people wrong with a remarkable and memorable 2017 season.