Castleton claims championship in its last year in the NAC

The Spartans pose with their NAC title after beating Colby-Sawyer 1-0 on Nov. 4. Photo courtesy of

With just one second left in the first half Castleton forward Jacob Godfrey was able to get his foot on Fidele Rutasyire’s corner kick and past Colby-Sawyer goalkeeper Shane Sacks to secure the 1-0 win and claim the North Atlantic Conference Championship at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 4.

With less than 15 seconds in the first half Godfrey fired a shot that deflected wide off a Colby-Sawyer defender for corner kick. But with just 10 seconds remaining Rutasyire was able to get the ball in play. With chaos in front of the net Spartans Sean Springer controlled the ball. His shot deflected off a Chargers defender and found the foot of Godfrey who was able to squeeze the ball just inside the right post.

“We always talk about how one second can change a game and it literally did tonight,” said Spartan captain Thomas Kirk. “I think for that split second we just had them. We caught them off guard, they were snoozing a little bit, Fidele busted his ass to get over there and every second counted.”

With the win marks the first time since 2008 that the Spartans have captured the NAC title and also the last as Castleton will move to the Little East conference for the 2018 season.

Castleton’s defense led by Goalkeeper Aaron Parker made if hard for two time NAC player of the year Denali Sexton to get anything going.

“You have Thomas Kirk who is two-time defensive player of the year and their goalie who just got MVP so he had an outstanding playoff. That just goes to show that they don’t just hand out those awards, they give them to people who deserve them,” Sexton said.

The high tempo and physical game was something that both teams expected.

“It wasn’t pretty today, but it was about grit,” said Spartan head coach John O’Connor.

Kirk agreed and added that the first half was one of the quickest he has ever played. The Spartans had to settle down in the second half and get back to playing their style of soccer Kirk said.

“They do a good job of clogging that middle up and applying pressure,” said Colby-Sawyer head coach Charles Metz.

With help from Kirk and friends Parker was able to make the four save he needed in order to record his sixth straight shutout. Sacks made one save for the Chargers.

“I would never want to go to war with any other group of men. They just play with so much heart and its two bad that that’s the goal we had to end our year and my career,” Sexton said. “It just goes to show that you have to play 45 minutes and not 44 minutes and 59 seconds.”

The Spartans faced Messiah in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament but fell 1-0. The Spartans were on the defensive for most of the game but stayed in the contest thanks to Parker virtually standing on his head and making nearly every save he needed to. Parker finished the game with an impressive 13 saves.

The Spartans finish the season 12-7-2 going 8-0-1 in conference play.

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