State runner-up: Loss in final hurts, but future looks bright for Tigers
By Scott Loftis
FAYETTEVILLE — Monday’s Class 3A state championship game didn’t play out the way Green Forest boys soccer coach Ben West had hoped, but the news isn’t all bad for the Tigers.
Central Arkansas Christian senior Blake Smith accounted for all of the scoring, scoring two goals in the first half and two more in the second to lead the Mustangs to a 4-0 victory over Green Forest at Razorback Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
The CAC victory avenged a loss to Green Forest in the 2014 Class 4A championship game. It also may prove to stoke a competitive fire in a young, talented Green Forest team that didn’t play up to their coach’s expectations on Monday.
“We didn’t play well today,” West said. “We seemed to be a little bit scared.”
West said the Mustangs used their height advantage and physical style of play to throw the Tigers off their normal rhythm. Green Forest (16-2-2) outscored its first three state tournament opponents by a combined 20-2 but struggled just to generate shots against a CAC team that won its 13th consecutive game.
“They were taller than we were,” West said. “They were kicking the ball high. They scored off a couple of headers. We were trying to make adjustments. We were just never able to get it done.”
There were sequences when Green Forest controlled the ball near the CAC net, but the Tigers couldn’t get a shot to go in and provide some momentum.
“We thought we had some opportunities,” West said. “I wasn’t satisfied with the way we played. The kids weren’t satisfied, either.”
Now that the Tigers have had a taste of state finals experience, they might be hungry for more.
“We’ve got a good group coming back,” said West, who finished his first year as the Tigers’ head coach. “It was almost a perfect season. We’re proud of that. I’m excited about what’s ahead.”