MURFREESBORO — Jared Ziegler knows the tale of two halves by heart.
As both a player and a coach, he’s experienced soccer matches that unfold like two matches in one.
“Honestly, at this time of year, it’s what you expect,” the Webb School coach said. “Because every team is strong and you know they’re going to give you their best. … You don’t have many mismatches at this point of the season.”
The Spartans and Battle Ground Academy put forth 40 minutes of their best play Thursday at Richard Siegel Park. Webb’s best was a little better, resulting in a 2-1 victory and a Division II-A state soccer championship.
The Spartans (18-1) hoisted the trophy and celebrated for the second time in school history. The first occurred in 2012.
Ziegler described the Spartans’ first half as “the best half we’ve played all year by far.” It yielded a pair of goals by Connor Jacobs.
The Wildcats struck back after halftime, becoming more aggressive and putting their height to good use on set plays. A free kick set up Harm Abbott’s goal with 26 minutes, 38 seconds left and foreshadowed a tense finish.
“It shows we can go through anything,” Jacobs said. “Our team never stops fighting.”
Webb (18-1) built its lead from an impressive display of offensive teamwork and ball possession. The Spartans nearly scored off a corner kick but quickly followed with Andrew Ross feeding Jacobs for his first goal, with 26:33 left in the first half.
Jacobs’ second was a stunning individual effort. He dribbled through three defenders, veering to the left and then firing his shot into the far right corner of the goal 18:05 before halftime.
“I just kept moving, keeping the ball moving, just finding the openings,” he said.
Ziegler had watched Jacobs create such opportunities before, only to defer on the finish.
“Earlier in the season, to be honest, he had moments like that and he’s such an unselfish player that he would dish,” Ziegler said. “We’ve been telling him for awhile, ‘If you have a full head of steam, just go at them. Go at them.’ He’s a big-time player and he stepped up at a big-time moment.”
Webb’s Nic Taylor reprised Jacobs’ effort shortly before halftime but slammed his shot off the post.
Ziegler gave Battle Ground Academy (12-7-1) credit for flipping the script after the break. But he also said, “Sometimes the worst thing in the world that can happen to you is having a halftime lead. That might have been our case today.”
Taylor drew a red card with 1:38 left. The Spartans then scrambled to cover a Battle Ground Academy corner kick inside the final minute.
“It got a little frantic,” Jacobs said.