Wildcat soccer finishes the year strong

By Joe Peine
Posted 11/16/23

The River Falls Wildcats played .500 ball this season, going 10-10 overall while finishing in the middle of the conference before advancing to the Regional Championship game in the playoffs.

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Wildcat soccer finishes the year strong


The River Falls Wildcats played .500 ball this season, going 10-10 overall while finishing in the middle of the conference before advancing to the Regional Championship game in the playoffs.

River Falls won their semifinal game against Sparta by a large margin, outscoring the cleverly named Spartans by a score of 6-0. First-year head Coach Adam Koger likes what he saw from his team.

“It was a solid showing for our team. We were able to possess the ball and score on a variety of different attacks,” Koger said. “It was fun to get all of our roster into that game at the end of the season.” 

The Wildcat players set a high bar for themselves this season with their overall goal being to win a plaque, otherwise known as winning the regional championship game against the Holmen Vikings and moving on to sectionals. Unfortunately, they came up just short of reaching that plateau.

River Falls came out hot against Holmen and were up 2-0 in the waning minutes of the first half, but they gave up a goal just before halftime. The Wildcats were able to come out after the play stoppage and score on a nice counterattack by wide back Marvin Manzano early in the second half to push it back to a two-goal lead at 3-1. 

About 10:00 more came off the clock when things took a hard turn for the worse for the Wildcats as the Vikings went on a spree where they scored three goals in 5:00 to take a 4-3 lead. Holmen punched in an insurance goal towards the end which put the game away for good, beating River Falls by a final score of 5-3. 

Obviously, this is a disappointing finish for a team that played hard all season only to watch their goals slip away at the very end. However, Coach Koger likes what he saw from his team, overall.

“We played an outstanding first half versus Holmen, applying pressure and causing turnovers which led to counterattacking opportunities. Unfortunately, after holding a two-goal lead early in the second half, we were unable to hold them off,” Koger said. “They hit us hard in the second half for a short stretch of time where we were caught on our heels.” 

It’s increasingly unfortunate as this was a team that was top heavy with senior talent this season.

“Losing seven seniors is never an easy thing for a team to be faced with. All of our seniors were contributors this past season, and they will definitely be missed,” Koger said. “Being new to the program, I do not know exactly what we have as incoming freshmen next year. I do know that our captains will be working hard with the returning members, and I'm confident we will be competitive in the Big Rivers Conference once again next year.”   

In what was essentially a transition for their program with Koger representing the third head coach that the Wildcat seniors had played for in the last four years, Coach Koger says they were blessed with some very skilled and athletic young men, and they will look to build on their successes next season.

“I think most of the guys would agree that we would have liked to finish what we started against Holmen in the Regional Final. We had several stretches of outstanding soccer but had difficulty putting a full 90 minutes together against some of our more talented opponents.  We will continue to work towards putting full games together,” Koger said. 

Coach Koger notes that one thing in particular they are going to work on is team camaraderie. The team talked after the season ended and agreed that this is something they lacked this season, and he puts that on his own shoulders. 

Going forward, Koger says they’re going to place more of an emphasis on creating a positive culture of trust and to create a more tightly knit team next year - but without changing tactics. He says he believes that this is the first step in growing their program. 

Standout Wildcat players this year were Julian Duran-Marin, Joey Butz, Marvin Manzano, Tustin Todd and Henry Ruhland, according to Koger.

“These individuals demonstrated the character traits that River Falls High School is looking to send our students into the world with. They all put in work outside of the school season to develop their skills and knowledge of the game,” Koger said. “Julian and Marvin provided us with flexibility due to their willingness to play nearly any position on the field. Joey had a nose for the goal and provided us with a spark when we needed it. Tustin is ridiculously skilled regarding his dribbling and distribution which definitely helped us in transition. Henry was a great vocal leader for us in goal.”  

Of this group, the Wildcats are losing Duran-Marin, Butz and Manzano.

“I look forward to Henry, Tustin, Wyatt Nelson and Jonas Longsdorf leading our team next year,” Koger said. “They were selected as the captains by their teammates prior to our banquet this year, and they each bring strengths that I believe will benefit our team this offseason as we prepare for next season.” 

River Falls Wildcats, boys soccer, Big Rivers