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Leif Bogen of the E.J. King Cobras and Sieun Lee of the Indianhead International Wolverines battle for the ball during Wednesday's Boys Class A championship match at Iwakuni. The Cobras won the match 2-1 in a penalty-kick shootout, capturing the first title in school history.

Leif Bogen of the E.J. King Cobras and Sieun Lee of the Indianhead International Wolverines battle for the ball during Wednesday's Boys Class A championship match at Iwakuni. The Cobras won the match 2-1 in a penalty-kick shootout, capturing the first title in school history. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Leif Bogen of the E.J. King Cobras and Sieun Lee of the Indianhead International Wolverines battle for the ball during Wednesday's Boys Class A championship match at Iwakuni. The Cobras won the match 2-1 in a penalty-kick shootout, capturing the first title in school history.

Leif Bogen of the E.J. King Cobras and Sieun Lee of the Indianhead International Wolverines battle for the ball during Wednesday's Boys Class A championship match at Iwakuni. The Cobras won the match 2-1 in a penalty-kick shootout, capturing the first title in school history. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Eric Hayes of E.J. King tries to settle the ball during Wednesday's game.

Eric Hayes of E.J. King tries to settle the ball during Wednesday's game. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

E.J. King goalkeeper Demond Dean can't stop an Indianhead International Wolverines try in the penalty-kick shootout, but the Cobras won the shootout, 5-4, and the match, 2-1.

E.J. King goalkeeper Demond Dean can't stop an Indianhead International Wolverines try in the penalty-kick shootout, but the Cobras won the shootout, 5-4, and the match, 2-1. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

E.J. King senior Jose Lopez Jr. is embraced by teammates after he scored the final shootout goal.

E.J. King senior Jose Lopez Jr. is embraced by teammates after he scored the final shootout goal. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

IWAKUNI MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Japan — A teammate shouted, “No pressure!” Jose Lopez Jr. hardly agreed with that bit of encouragement.

“I was scared out of my mind,” the senior striker said of the moments before he took the final try in a penalty-kick shootout with the Far East Boys Class A Soccer Tournament title on the line. “I had no thoughts. I was praying. Just make it. I could only hope.”

Slowly, Lopez approached the ball and buried the shot well to the left of diving goalkeeper Allen Kang, sparking a wild celebration at midfield as Lopez and his E.J. King teammates captured the first soccer tournament title in school history.

The Cobras edged the Indianhead International Wolverines of South Korea 2-1, winning the penalty-kick shootout 5-4 on Wednesday at Iwakuni’s Penny Lake Field 1.

It capped the team’s rise from 0-13-1 last season to 9-9-3, including wins in five of its last six matches, five of them resulting in one-goal margins.

“To go from a team that didn’t win a match last year to a championship, it’s indescribable,” coach Michael Erickson said.

He praised the effort of a team that emphasized defense, citing the play of goalkeeper Demond Dean, who allowed just five goals in six matches, and the work of his assisant Oscar Ovalle.

“We’re so fortunate to come out on top,” Erickson said, calling Wednesday’s final an “absolute chess match. One mistake could have swung it either way. Survival of the fittest, or the luckiest.”

Luck seemed to rest with the Cobras in the early going. Freshman left wing Casey Alexander sent a crossing pass that glanced off the hand of fullback Dong Il Lee and past Kang into the net for a 1-0 edge in the 11th minute.

But E.J. King was whistled for a pushing violation in the area, and Yee Kon Khim equalized the match with a penalty kick in the 32nd minute.

That proved to be the only chink in Dean’s armor. He turned back chance after chance the rest of the way through regulation and extra time, while Indianhead’s Kang was equal to the task.

Finally came the penalty-kick shootout. The Cobras led 2-1 after two rounds, when Hansol Yu clanged Indianhead’s second attempt off the post.

Kang saved a try by E.J. King’s third shooter, Alexander, but she made good on a second chance when Kang was whistled for leaving the line too early. That set the stage for Lopez’s fifth-round heroics, and the victory celebration that followed.

“What a great way to close my career,” Kang said of his last act in a Cobras uniform.

For E.J. King fullback David Heitstuman, the victory matched his gold-medal effort at 135 pounds during the Far East wrestling tournament in February at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s one thing to celebrate individually, but to work our way through overtime to win this? Nobody expected this. We couldn’t be happier.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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