Air Academy junior Jett Neubacher gave the Kadets student section plenty of reason to go bananas Tuesday.
As the student section worked its way to the end of a popular chant that includes picking, peeling, smashing and eating bananas, Neubacher was racing toward a bouncing ball near the top of The Classical Academy’s box.
Just as the students got to the “go bananas” part where the jumping and screaming starts, Neubacher was poking a ball past Titan (3-2) goalkeeper Jack Carpenter for the game-winner in the final 10 minutes of a 2-1 victory.
“All my teammates were making good runs, so I thought I would just come behind them, and it worked out for me,” Neubacher said after the Kadets improved to 4-2. “I was happy that it bounced in my favor.”
Early on, it looked like there might be no need for late drama.
Neubacher scored the game’s first goal in the opening 10 minutes when he ran onto a pass from Thad Dewing and finished with his first touch.
“He finds himself in good positions. We talked about getting our wide players a little bit more in front of goal on crosses and stuff like that. He popped up twice in the right position,” Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. “He’s a good player.”
The match went to the half tied 1-1 after Titan midfielder Caden Lukenbill found some space in the box and placed his shot just inside the far post midway through the half.
The TCA junior midfielder almost put the visitors in front with 25 minutes remaining when his shot came down off the crossbar.
“Caden’s doing a good job getting himself into dangerous attacking positions and putting balls where they need to be,” TCA coach Blake Galvin said.
It was ruled not to have crossed the line, but some Titans supporters disagreed. Regardless of the end result, it was a showing the Titans’ coach can live with.
“I feel like that game could’ve gone either way,” Galvin said. “I’m pleased with the way the boys played overall tonight.”
Air Academy went on to produce a couple of more quality scoring opportunities off corner kicks but had to wait for Neubacher’s late strike to go in front for good.
After early losses to Boulder and Pine Creek, both 5A programs, the Kadets, winners of back-to-back 4A state titles, have hopes of another deep postseason run. A win over the Titans, which played in the 4A semifinals last year, was a good place to start.
“TCA was good. It’s always a tight games against them,” Hosoien said. “It’s fun to play those.”
Nobody seemed to have more fun Tuesday than the Air Academy junior named for a grandfather who flew jets in the Navy.
“The dream is of course to win state again, but I’m just here to have fun with everyone,” Neubacher said. “I like having fun, so I’m just going to go for the ride.”