Today's Paper News Sports Features Business Opinion LEARNS Guide Newsletters Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

PREP SOCCER: Russellville adds another to dynasty

by Mitchell Gladstone | May 20, 2023 at 2:13 a.m.
Prep Rally Logo

CONWAY -- Coach Jared Fuller wore a couple of state title rings Friday afternoon, one on each hand.

He's not yet reached the Bill Russell stage of his career with enough jewelry for all 10 of his fingers. But it's getting there.

Fuller and his Russellville program extended their run of dominance Friday, edging Hot Springs Lakeside 1-0 at Estes Stadium to capture the Class 5A boys'state soccer championship. The win marked the Cyclones' seventh title since 2012 and the third time they've gone back-to-back during that stretch -- 2014-15, 2018-19 and now 2022-23.

"It never gets old, man," Fuller said. "It's special for each group every year. There's different work and different things and different dynamics. ... It's a new experience with every group."

The game's lone goal came in the 11th minute when tournament MVP Jett Bull nodded home a cross from the right wing off a short throw-in, staking Russellville (23-2-2) to a margin it'd sustain for the final 69 minutes.

Although the Rams had a few set-piece opportunities in the opening five minutes -- something Fuller said he was specifically worried about defending -- Hot Springs Lakeside (18-3-2) spent the majority of the game in its own half.

Taking advantage of a wide pitch, the Cyclones were able to control the ball and the game, pitching their 12th shutout in 22 games. Since a 1-0 loss at De Queen on March 4 -- one of two defeats this season, both coming in Russellville's first five games -- the Cyclones had surrendered a total 13 goals.

They didn't let the Rams add to that tally Friday.

"We're just possessing the ball offensively," Fuller said, "and that makes the defense look good."

Russellville entered the season having to replace major pieces at both ends of the pitch. Goalkeeper Noe Ramirez gave way to Brian Moreno in net and forward Fernando Castro left a gaping hole up front.

The Cyclones had to shuffle things around a bit early in the season but found something in Bull, who moved from midfield and injected an element of speed into the Russellville attack.

"We had those empty spots ... [and] we had to figure out a different play style," Bull said. "We figured out that we can't just play to one player, and this year, we've had four or five different goal scorers."

After collecting yet another trophy, Russellville's players sprinted over to their fans, climbing up the railing to celebrate among a large Cyclone contingent, all in white.

And once Fuller had finished his media obligations, he gathered his team just in front of their bench.

The message was straightforward: Relish this one, take the week off and be ready to get back to work in a week.

That's the mentality fueling a dynasty.

"This is our state championship," Bull said, his MVP trophy in hand as a teammate laid the championship banner over his shoulders. "We went all year working together to get here and we did it."

Print Headline: Russellville adds another to dynasty


Sponsor Content