After finishing runner up in 2021, the Grace Christian Academy Lions (17-2-2) secured their first title since 2019 in a 3-0 victory over the Boyd Buchanan Buccaneers (18-3) at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex on Thursday afternoon.

“I think the difference was we had 31 guys that overcame obstacles, injuries, and a lot of things that did not go our way all spring.” said GCA head coach David DeFatta. “These guys did not look toward goals; they looked to a purpose of honoring and glorifying God with how they play the game of soccer.”

“None of this happens truly on our own to get where we are today,” said GCA senior Malachi Jones. “Thanks to God for all of this. We are truly grateful for this opportunity.”

GCA got on the board early in the second minute of the game with a goal scored by sophomore Jake Breland in the box, assisted by Malachi Jones.

“We are a team here,” said Malachi Jones. “We got 11 guys on the field and 11 guys can put the ball in the back of the net. This team [Boyd Buchanan] came out worried about one guy and that guy did nothing. They forgot about the 10 other guys that were playing. That is what is so special about this team.”

GCA held on to the lead with strong defense and goalkeeper play by junior Jessie Koellein to stay ahead at halftime 1-0.

“We knew what they brought to the table,” said GCA senior Levi Jones. “The communication was very important for us. With the five at the back, it was important to track our runners. The defense was able to step up in ways that we could not have asked for any better.”

In the 42nd minute, the future Bison to Bison connection was established as Lipscomb signee Malachi Jones found his brother Levi Jones, also a Lipscomb signee, with a lob shot over the Buccaneers goalie to extend their advantage 2-0.

“It was our plan all the years we had been playing soccer,” said Levi Jones. “We know our chemistry and how we build off of each other. I think it was very important to go to the same college just to keep that going. We know we are both different types of players, but we use that to feed off each other.”

GCA added another goal in the 51st minute with a blast in the box by eighth grader Zion Jones, with an assist from Levi Jones to increase their margin to 3-0.

“We are just so connected,” said DeFatta. “Sometimes they do not even look where they are playing the ball, but they know somebody is going to be there, because we practiced it. It just all clicked today.”

The GCA defense along with goalies Jessie Koellein and Nate Westmoreland preserved the clean sheet and won 3-0 to capture the Division 2-A crown.

“Jessie and Nate were able to come up with huge saves,” said DeFatta. “They deflected a lot of shots and got in the way of some shots. I could not be prouder of them.”

“Our backs were absolutely amazing today,” continued DeFatta. “Connor Armstrong and Moses McDowell led us extremely well.”

“I think it is a credit to the hard work they put in the offseason in training sessions,” said Malachi Jones. “They have to go against us attackers, and I can tell you it is not going to be easy. They came in and put in the work day in and day out, and it is showing here big time.”

GCA will have seniors Malachi Jones, Levi Jones, Nate Westmoreland, Moses McDowell, Mark Parker, and Connor Armstrong leave the program with two state titles, a runner-up finish, and memories that will last for a lifetime.

“Everyone knows what Levi and Malachi do on the field,” said DeFatta. “What they don’t know is what they do off the field. Mark Parker, Connor Armstrong, Moses McDowell, Nate Westmoreland; their leadership made this team who they are. It is not about winning or losing; it is about glorifying God in everything they were able to do. That is what the seniors bring.”

“I am going to remember most the relationships I formed here and being able to grow my relationship with God as well,” said Malachi Jones. “That is my biggest takeaway from my years in high school and on the soccer team.”

“The coaches have created a culture that is different from any other team I have played on,” said Levi Jones. “They taught us how to be Godly men, and how to build brotherhood. Brotherhood is much different here than travel (soccer) anywhere else.”

In the Division II-AA championship game, Father Ryan (9-5-5) fell to Baylor (18-1-1) on penalties. After being tied 2-2 through regulation, the two sides did not break in the deadlock in extra time, leading to penalties. Baylor prevailed 4-2 in the shootout.