The Norwalk boys have won state titles three of the last four years (and they took home third place in 2015). Photo courtesy Kason Crall
DES MOINES, Iowa – Wednesday, June 7, 2017 – Fueled by Menace power, the Norwalk boys won their second straight Iowa Class 2A state championship on Saturday.
With 13 Des Moines Menace Academy members on their roster, the Warriors outlasted Cedar Rapids Xavier in a shootout that settled a 1-1 draw after 100 minutes of action at Cownie Soccer Park.
This is the third state title in four years for head coach Dustin Kralik’s team, which has racked up 68 wins during this span.
“Eight of our starters played together with the Menace in the fall, so it made for a pretty natural transition when we stepped into spring,” Kralik said. “Our 15 seniors (including nine Menace Academy members) gave us great depth, with a variety of skills from front to back, and they were committed to the game and growing all the time. This was a fun group that established themselves as a premier team.”
Menace alumni scored all of Norwalk’s 2017 tournament goals – including the kicks from the mark in Saturday’s shootout.
Norwalk’s title defense opened Thursday with a rematch of the 2016 final, which had ended with Andrew Jensen setting up Jacob Connelly for an all-Menace golden goal in a 2-1 win over Storm Lake. This time around, Kyle McGuire and Jack Palen provided the goals in a 2-0 win, sending Norwalk to its sixth semifinal appearance in the last seven tournaments.
On Friday against Perry, Kasey Leaper opened the scoring, Palen bagged a couple more goals (running his season and career totals to 27 and 42) and Connelly capped a 4-0 victory. This set up a showdown with Xavier – a team that had topped Norwalk in the 2004, 2006 and 2011 finals.
After allowing a goal in the early moments of the second half, Norwalk trailed Xavier for nearly 30 minutes of a chippy championship. It wasn’t until the 72nd minute that Kason Crall leveled the match.
“That was the best feeling ever. It felt great to be even and that gave us momentum,” Crall said. “After we got the equalizer, I felt good about our chances to win.”
Crall – a member of the Iowa Elite All-State Team and one of three finalists for Iowa Player of the Year – was Norwalk’s first in line for the shootout following 20 scoreless minutes of overtime. He converted his opportunity, as did Nick Eltjes, then Palen and finally Chase Sinclair, who cemented a 4-1 PK win for the championship.
“I was feeling super confident when Chase stepped up,” said Palen. I was so relieved when he buried it. We stormed the field and everyone was screamed and shouting. It’s hard to put it into words – just amazing.”
“We grew up playing together, back when we were six,” said Crall. “We’re all friends, and we’ve always had that team chemistry. We expected nothing less than what we’ve accomplished.”
2017 State Soccer brackets (boys)
College soccer awaits five Academy grads
This year’s state tournament also featured Menace Academy members on West Des Moines Valley and Des Moines Roosevelt.
Valley opened its Class 3A title defense with a 3-0 win over Roosevelt, on the way to a championship rematch with Iowa City West, which found payback in a 1-0 win over the Tigers.
Norwalk High School team members who are part of the Menace Academy:
Jacob Connelly, senior
Kason Crall, senior
Nick Eltjes, senior
Joey Goode, junior
Andrew Jensen, senior
Kasey Leaper, senior
Keegan Leaper, senior
Kyle McGuire, senior
Jack Palen, senior
Matthew Palen, freshman
Jared Riordan, junior
Micah Sarlat-pool, junior
Chase Sinclair, senior
ABOUT THE MENACE ACADEMY: The Des Moines Menace Youth Soccer Academy provides a fun and challenging soccer environment that allows players to grow as people and reach the best of their soccer abilities. The academy includes boys and girls teams ranging in age from six to 18. Players are from all over the Des Moines metro area, coming from diverse backgrounds. Academy members develop by learning skills and strategies at age-appropriate levels. Youth are exposed to the very best coaching and training on a consistent basis as they grow and mature.
The non-profit Menace Academy is part of the Des Moines Menace – Iowa’s premier men’s and women’s teams. The Menace promotes healthy lifestyles through popular youth programs that also include Junior Menace, camps, clinics and tournaments.