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6A BOYS SOCCER: Conway repeats as senior Will Childers scores hat trick in 3-2 win against Springdale

by Chip Souza | May 20, 2023 at 2:34 a.m.
Conway’s Will Childers (23) prepares to take a shot on goal while defended by Springdale goalkeeper Herman Ico during the Class 6A state boys soccer championship game Friday at Estes Stadium in Conway. Childers had three goals as the Wampus Cats won 3-2 for their second state title in a row. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

CONWAY -- Will Childers saw a wide-open goal just a few yards away as he and the Springdale keeper battled for the ball.

On a wet turf with the score tied 2-2 in the Class 6A boys soccer state championship game, the Conway senior collided with Springdale keeper Herman Ico outside of the box. Childers tried to punch the ball with his foot, but could not get a hard kick, which allowed a Springdale player to kick the shot away ... and right back to Childers.

This time the Conway forward did not miss, drilling a shot to the center of the goal with 5:17 remaining for a 3-2 lead. From there, the Wampus Cats survived a late barrage of Springdale shots to claim their second straight state championship Friday at Estes Stadium.

"When me and the goalie collided, the ball fell down to my foot, but I slipped. It was a weak shot and they deflected it up," Childers said. "They deflected it and the ball went up. Tyson [Turnage] and another defender battled for it. It fell to me. And I just hit it with all my might and put it in the back of that net."

The goal was Childers' third of the match, a hat trick in the final game of his stellar high school career before he heads to Ouachita Baptist University in the fall.

The win was sort of a redemption victory for the Wampus Cats (20-3), who lost to Springdale in the 2021 championship match, according to Conway Coach Matthew Page.

"That was the motivation coming into the game," Page said. "That was what I used in our locker room, kind of bulletin board stuff. We were in the same position they are now, looking over at them and saying, 'That could have been us' when they beat us for the state championship three years ago. They beat us then. They had a great team and they have a great team this year."

Conway never trailed Friday, taking a 1-0 lead 10 minutes in when Childers was taken down inside the box for a penalty. He drilled a shot into the lower left corner off the penalty kick.

Springdale (12-3-3) relentlessly attacked the Conway goal and finally broke through when Giovanni Salazar was taken down inside the Wampus Cats' box with 10 minutes left before the intermission. Fernando Avila was given the penalty kick and he made in the shot to tie the match at 1-1.

A penalty kick by Childers with 33:21 left put the Wampus Cats up 2-1. On the play, a Conway player was taken down in the box after a save by Springdale's Brandon Barron after Ico mishandled the wet ball on a Wampus Cat shot. On the penalty kick, Childers kicked a high shot to the middle of the goal, just over the outstretched hands of Ico.

Springdale struck back quickly to tie the match at 2-2. The Bulldogs converted off a corner kick when Yeferson Tobar knocked in a header just past Conway keeper Jackson Tucker with 20:43 left.

After Childers' third goal, Springdale peppered multiple shots at the Conway goal. But Tucker repelled all of the attempts and Conway was able to hang on for the win.

Childers said scoring a hat trick in a state championship game was always in the back of his mind after he scored two goals in last year's championship win against Fort Smith Northside.

"Us players, we always have that dream scenario," he said. "I mean, a hat trick in a state championship, that's always been on my mind since last year. But this game today, I mean we scored, they scored, we scored, they scored, then finally we got the third goal to come out on top. I'm just very proud of this team. I love them with everything I've got and I'm glad we're going out with a win."

  photo  Conway’s Jackson Tucker (left) punches the ball away from the goal as Springdale’s Brandon Barron challenges during Friday’s Class 6A boys soccer state championship game in Conway. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

 Gallery: Arkansas State 6A Boys Soccer Championship

Print Headline: Childers’ hat trick lifts Wampus Cats


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