The MMA Fighting Colonels varsity soccer squad had a lot to brag about this season: 19 games won, three tournament trophies (Fort Zumwalt, Moberly and Mexico) and a district championship. Here’s how they rose to success from start to finish.
AUGUST 25 VS. LUTHERAN ST. CHARLES
After bad weather caused a late start to the Fort Zumwalt Tournament, the Fighting Colonels varsity soccer team finally kicked off their 2015-16 season with an 8-2 victory over the Lutheran St. Charles Cougars on August 25.
Facing a team who beat the 2014 squad 2-1, MMA came out strong with a goal in the fourth minute courtesy of a 30-yard shot by senior Matheus Alexandre. A second goal came from senior Jesus Gracia, who scored on a diving header eight minutes later. Fighting Colonel strikers Mig Gisa ’17 and Donald Williams ‘18 followed with goals of their own to end the first half with a 4-1 lead.
The second half mirrored the first as Alexandre scored again, followed by Gracia, who scored two more goals to complete a hat-trick.
“I can’t tell you how impressive our boys played tonight,” head coach MAJ Kevin Farley said. “The soccer was beautiful, the teamwork was amazing and the attitude was honorable. We received many compliments from the opposing team, fans at the game and the referees.”
Juan Perez ’17 scored his first goal as a Fighting Colonel while Alexandre, Jose Estrada ’16, Alejandro Gastelum ’16, and Rene Padilla ’16 each earned one assist; Arnoldo Aguirre ’17 earned two.Cadets took a total of 23 shots on goal.
“He showed the best leadership I’ve ever seen by an athlete here,” Farley said of team captain Estrada.
AUGUST 27 VS. RITENOUR
Cadets triumphed 1-0 on August 27 versus Ritenour, the score tied at 0-0 until the 74th minute. Of MMA’s 19 shots on goal, only senior Jesus Gracia’s shot on a pass from Arnoldo Aguirre Tello ’17 in the 75th minute was successful.
“Ritenour High School proved to be a good opposition and it was neck and neck throughout the game, with a few early shots being saved by their keeper, and a very early 2nd half shot from Atkins going just wide,” LT Sean Peters said.
According to Peters, senior goalkeeper Justin Touchette ’16 started out nervous but “gained confidence as the match progressed and made some very important saves, at one point recovering a fumble that looked sure to go in. He certainly kept us in the game.” Touchette made 8 saves in the 80-minute match.
“The MMA team played with a lot of class and stayed with their game plan maintaining possession and creating a lot of scoring opportunities,” head coach MAJ Kevin Farley said. “The Fighting Colonels never got frustrated or gave up and continued to attack.”
“Displaying excellent military bearing and good discipline at all times, they really shone far beyond anything I can put into words,” Peters said. “Two people approached our bus driver, Larry, who was on the opposite stands, saying the team were the most well-mannered and respectful team they had seen.”
On August 29, MMA faced Warrenton and won 8-3 to go 3-0-0 on the season. Cadets boasted six first-half goals against the Warriors – three of which were courtesy of Gracia, who picked up his second hat-trick of the season. Matheus Alexandre Santos ‘16, Erik Jensen ‘17 and Mig Gisa ‘17 provided assists.
Alexandre scored twice on assists from Gracia and Donald Williams ‘17; Jensen found the net thanks to an assist from Gracia; and Aguirre assisted on Williams’ goal.
“We played a very good first half,” Farley said. “We played with very tired legs and lost a lot of interest and focus in the second half. Our defense was very disorganized in the second half, so that is something we need to work on. But, we are a fun team to watch and our possession is a sight to see. I think this team has a great deal of potential.”
“A tired MMA soccer team is ready for the free weekend!” Farley said.
SEPTEMBER 1 VS. SOUTHERN BOONE
The then-unbeaten Fighting Colonels faltered the following week, losing a home game 0-4 on September 1 against Southern Boone. Despite the loss against the Eagles, Farley congratulated junior Juan Diego Silva on his mature behavior.
“Juan really stepped up as a leader toward the end of the match and after the game,” Farley said. “He spoke to the team and told them, ‘Failure will make us stronger and help us find success.’ It was very impressive to see him step up as a leader and work so hard as a player.”
SEPTEMBER 3 VS FATHER TOLTON
Cadets then fell 4-3 on September 3 versus the Father Tolton Trailblazers in a double overtime fight. MMA couldn’t find the net early in the game – six times during the first 10 minutes,
MMA shots reflected off posts or went wide of the goal.
Yednekachew Atkins ’17 scored once unassisted while Matheus Alexandre ’16 scored on an assist from junior Arnoldo Aguirre. Juan Diego Silva ’17 scored off an assist from Mig Gisa ‘17. Touchette stopped eight of 12 shots in goal.
“This week was not as kind to us as last week,” Farley said. “We have a lot of starters recovering from injuries and not playing, so it is giving us a great opportunity for some younger players to get more playing time. We are still far ahead of where we were last season, so we continue to anticipate a great season ahead.”
MOBERLY INVITATIONAL SOCCER TOURNAMENT
The MMA soccer team bounced back starting September 10, ultimately taking home the Moberly Invitational Soccer Tournament trophy. On September 10, cadets defeated Canton 12-2. Jesus Gracia ’16 scored 5 goals and 2 assists while Matheus Alexandre made 3 goals.
“Many players scored during the match and left the Moberly crowd in awe of their passing and scoring ability,” Farley said. “Last year … after 6 games our record was 1-4-1 (1 win, 4 losses and 1 tie); in 2015 we are currently 4-2-0.”
During the three games, the team scored 23 goals and notched 19 total assists. Jesus Gracia ’16 earned 11 goals and 2 assists; Matheus Alexandre ’16 and Donald Williams ’18 both had three goals and three assists each. During the first 30 seconds of the Tolton game, Erik Jensen ‘17 intercepted a pass and scored – totaling three goals and two assists during the weekend. Junior Mig Gisa, senior David Lazcano and junior Alejandro Gastelum scored one goal each.
Edward Cha ‘18, Rene Padilla ‘16, Juan Diego Silva ’17 and senior Christian Paz provided one assist each while Arnoldo Aguirre ’17 added three. William Carter ’16 watched the goal for 180 minutes and saved six shots. Yednekachew Atkins ’17 spent 60 minutes in goal and saved six shots.
“They played flawless soccer and did so with honor,” Farley said.
Gracia was named Legerland Athlete of the Week by The Mexico Ledger for his performance at the Moberly Invitational Tournament.
SENIOR STUDENT-ATHLETE JESUS GRACIA
SEPTEMBER 15 VS. FATIMA
On September 15 — not counting the three goals he scored that night during MMA’s 4-3 defeat of Fatima High School — senior Jesus Gracia was named the highest-scoring soccer player in Missouri’s Class 2A division. Gracia topped the charts in goals scored, total points and games won.
Matheus Alexandre Santos ’16 was named the No. 8 scorer in Missouri, followed by Donald Williams ’18 at No. 16.
“Jesus ‘Chui’ Gracia is having a fantastic season so far,” Athletic Director MAJ Kevin Farley said. “When he goes into a game with confidence, he is the best player in the state of Missouri. He has a bright future in front of him and I’m honored to be his coach.”
“After beating the same team 6-0 just a few days before, our players showed up as if they didn’t have to play to win,” Farley said. “There was no doubt in my mind during warm-up that we would be down at halftime…. It was something the players needed to work through and figure out for themselves.”
Rene Padilla ’16 provided assists in the 53rd minute and 69th minute for goals by Gracia.
A final goal by Gracia brought the score to a tie until the last 24 seconds of the match.
“Cadet Rene Padilla ’16 passed a beautiful through ball to cadet Erik Jensen ’17, who had been moved to forward for the final 10 minutes of the game and eased the ball into the lower left corner for the victory,” head coach MAJ Kevin Farley said. “It was really great to see an MMA team not give up when things didn’t look very good. The Fighting Colonels overcame adversity, and that will make this team even stronger.”
Alex Carter covered the goal for the duration of the game, stopping eight of 11 shots on goal.
The junior varsity team took the field following the varsity match, defeating the Fatima JV team 2-0. According to Farley, senior David Lazcano “ripped a couple of 20-20 yard bullets from outside the penalty box” within the first two minutes.
“The game was never in doubt,” Farley said. “JV played very well together.”
The top three class 2A Missouri Military Academy soccer players according to the state leader boards are listed below. (These figures do not include the September 15 game versus Fatima, including Gracia’s three goals. Total Points figure is calculated using Goals Scored and Assists.)
No. 1 in Missouri: Jesus Gracia ’16
Goals Scored: 18. Assists: 6. Total Points: 42. Games Won: 3.
No. 8 in Missouri: Matheus Alexandre Santos ’16
Goals Scored: 11. Assists: 4. Total Points: 26. Games Won: 1.
No. 16 in Missouri: Donald Williams ’18
Goals Scored: 5. Assists: 5. Total Points: 15. Games Won: 1.
The varsity soccer Colonels won a home game 4-2 over Hannibal on September 22 and proved victorious again two days later with a 4-1 home win over Mexico High School on September 24.
Less than three minutes into the game, Gracia scored the first goal of the night – he scored twice more on the night, earning his sixth hat trick of the season. Gastelum found the net thanks to a penalty kick awarded for an MHS handball in the box. Estrada and Aguirre both provided one assist apiece.
Carter spent the full game in the box, making six saves.
“It was good to get the victory over Mexico,” Farley said. “We had some really good moments in the game.”
SEPTEMBER 28 & OCTOBER 5
The team triumphed twice in a row over the Elsberry Hawks with an 11-1 home win September 28 followed by a 5-1 road win October 5.
Rene Padilla Cines ’16 added three points and two assists during MMA’s first match, which was called 17 minutes early due to the Colonels’ significant lead. Jesus Gracia Villasenor ‘16 scored four goals while junior Erik Jensen, senior Matheus Alexandre, sophomore Francisco Fletes and sophomore Donald Williams added one goal apiece.
“It was good to see so many different players score and assist on goals,” Farley said.
Additional assists were provided by sophomores Fletes and Edward Cha and seniors Jose Estrada, Christian Paz and Alexandre. Senior goalkeeper William Carter spent 63 minutes in the box, saving six shots.
“This game was much more enjoyable than our 11-1 win,” head coach CPT Kevin Farley said of the second win. “In our first match against Elsberry, everyone was goal hungry, and it was nice to see our boys work on their possession in this match. That will pay huge dividends in future games as we approach the playoffs.”
Alexandre and Gracia added two goals each while Juan Diego Silva ‘17 scored with a header off a corner kick. Junior goalkeeper Yedne Atkins made three saves in goal. Jensen contributed three assists while Aguirre added one.
“I was able to start all of our bench players and give them an opportunity to start a match,” Farley said. “They did a good job of moving the ball.”
Following a forfeit win over Barat Academy, MMA entered the Mexico Bulldog Soccer Invitational on October 10 at 12-2-0 on the season. Entering the tournament, the MMA offense boasted 71 goals total, with 64 by assist. Team captain Gracia scored 33; Alexandre made 14 and Jensen contributed seven. Aguirre and Padilla led the team with 10 assists each; Jensen had seven; and Alexandre and Gracia had six each. Keeper Carter logged 443 minutes in the net, making 29 saves and allowing only 10 goals.
“It’s going to be a very difficult weekend. Any of the teams we play this weekend are going to be very hungry and have something to prove,” Farley said. “We will have to continue to play our brand of soccer and play at a top level.”
The Colonels first faced Chillicothe High School and triumphed 10-1. Gracia brought his season goal total to 38 and scored five goals in one game for the third time this season. Additional scorers were: Padilla, who scored three goals to earn a hat trick; and Williams and junior Mig Gisa, who scored once each. Jensen and senior David Lazcano contributed two assists each while junior Gregory Prinster added one. Cadets took a total of 37 shots on goal.
Up next was a 3-0 shutout triumph over cross-town rivals Mexico High School. Gracia scored once in the first half and twice in the second against the Bulldogs, earning his ninth hat trick of the season and marking his 41st goal of the season. Estrada and Lazcano each assisted on one goal, while Carter made five saves in goal.
“Teams always play us physically to try to slow down our skill level and the boys have grown accustomed to that,” Farley said. “We just kept playing.”
With three tournament championships (Zumwalt, Moberly and Mexico) the Fighting Colonels were unanimously voted the No. 1 seed in the district tournament.
On October 15, MMA triumphed 5-1 over Soldan International Studies in St. Louis. Gracia led the team with two goals and provided two assists for his teammates. Gastelum, Jensen and Lazcano scored one goal apiece against the Tigers.
“The night started out with a lot of chaos,” Farley said. “Fortunately, the boys continued to possess and attack, coming on strong in the second half. We continue to improve each day.”
OCTOBER 17 VS FULTON
The Colonels faced Fulton on Colonels Field on October 17 during Fall Family Weekend – enjoying a rare opportunity to play in front of family and friends from across the globe, MMA triumphed 11-0.
Only 32 seconds after the start of the game, Gracia scored his first goal. By the time the game ended – it was stopped at halftime per MSHSAA rules – he had scored five goals total, marking his 10th hat trick of the season.
Estrada scored two goals while Alexandre, Lazcano, Padilla and Fletes contributed one goal each. Alexandre and Gracia boasted two assists each; Aguirre, Jensen, Estrada, Padilla and Lazcano each contributed one assist.
The game marked a new MMA single-season scoring record – Gracia scored his 48th goal of the season after 17 games. With his parents and family on hand, a rarity for the senior from Canada, Gracia tied and then broke the individual record with a goal off an assist from Jensen. The feat broke the previous record of 47 goals ina single season set by Thomas Gonzalez in 1993.
OCTOBER 20 VS SMITHTON
In their last regular season match, the Colonels triumphed 9-0 on October 20 over the Smithton Tigers. Younger players left the bench and took the field in the home victory.
“It was nice to get another win to finish our regular season at 17-2-0,” Farley said. “We were able to bring up some JV players and play a lot of guys that normally don’t get to play much.”
Jesus Gracia earned his eleventh hat trick of the season, scoring his 51st goal of the season. Yedne Atkins scored twice; jose Estrada, Rene Padilla, Juan Perez and David Lazcano scored a goal each. Gisa contributed three assists, while Gracia and Padilla had one each. Alex Carter made five saves in goal.
The following day, the No. 1 seed Colonels hit the road to play no. 4 seeded Kirksville in the opening round of the Class 2 District 8 Championship.
MMA shut out the Tigers 0-5 in their seventh shutout victory of the season. Gracia added four goals to his season total goals – 55 – and earned his eleventh hat trick of the season.
“I am very proud of the boys working together toward victory,” Farley said.
Cadets claimed the MSHSAA Class 2, District 8 Championship on October 24 with a 2-0 win over Mexico High School.
The score sat deadlocked at 0-0 until the 63rd minute, when Gracia delivered a goal off an assist by Alejandro Gastelum. Gracia scored once more in the 74th minute thanks to an assist by Matheus Alexandre.
“They played me tough, the toughest I’ve faced this season. They just kept up the pressure. They played hard and clean. I respect that and them,” Gracia said. “As the game went on, I realized that I had to spread them out so I could create space to work. The goals came off that and great passes from my teammates.”
MMA goalkeeper Alex Carter finished with five saves.
“I would like to congratulate the Mexico team on a terrific season and a very well-played game. We knew it would be a battle and it certainly was. … We never gave up and simply kept playing our brand of soccer,” MMA Coach Kevin Farley said. “I am so happy for these boys to experience being champions after all the hard work they have put in. I am happy for the entire MMA community, which is such a wonderful place for extraordinary boys. It truly took a community to achieve victory with honor. This is a very special team and it has been simply amazing watching them mature and grow this season. Obviously, we have very talented players, but Jose Estrada’s leadership has been very impressive this season in addition to Gracia’s goal scoring. The best part is that these boys aren’t satisfied with a district championship.”
Cadets fell to the Francis Borgia Knights 3-1 on the road in a sectional match October 27, bringing their season record to 19-3-0. Cadets were down 1-0 at halftime, struggling with rain and an unfamiliar turf field. With a little over five minutes left in the game, Gracia scored off an assist from Francisco Fletes. The goal was his 58th this season and put him at third on the MSHSAA all-time leading goal scorers list with an average of 2.76 goals per game. Gracia scored at least one goal in every game he played this season.
“We have nothing to hang our heads over,” Estrada said. “We played hard and gave it everything we had, but just came up short. We won 19 games, several tournaments, a district championship and helped set Academy and state records. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”