OMAHA — The Kearney students broke out a “Why so quiet?” chant during the second half of the Class A boys state soccer final Tuesday.
The Omaha Westside student section countered with a “Where is Kearney?” chant.
It’s safe to assume that most people present at Morrison Stadium had, at the very least, a general idea of where Kearney is.
But if Kearney’s boys soccer program wasn’t on the map before, it is now.
Behind a header off a corner kick from junior Carson Schwarz, the No. 4 Bearcats clipped top-ranked Omaha Westside 1-0 to make history. Kearney became the first non-Metro, non-Lincoln team to win a Class A boys state soccer championship.
"Most of the teams we play down here field teams with year-round guys," Kearney coach Scott Steinbrook said. "This is the greatest collection of football players and basketball players and musicians and tennis players that we’ve probably ever had.
"They’re well-rounded kids, they’re great competitors and you saw that, because this was grit tonight."
Kearney (18-2) only had two shots on goal, but the way the Bearcats defend, they don't need many.
Tuesday's opportunity came in the 49th minute when senior Christian Dakan delivered a beautiful corner kick to the front of the net. Schwarz was there to bump it in.
"We had a corner before that and they didn’t mark me very tight, so this time I was like, 'I’m going to go get this one,'" Schwarz said.
Senior Hunter Novacek started the transition on the opposite side of the field.
"Our defense, it’s our game," Kearney junior goalkeeper Jacob Hardy said. "Once we go a goal up, we rely on our defense a lot and that’s our strong suit."
When Kearney saw the bracket draw before state, Steinbrook admits, there was a little shock.
"We’re like 'Oh, my gosh,'" he said. "If we’re going to win a state championship, we’ve got to beat arguably the three most tradition-rich programs in the Metro Conference.
"But after a couple days, after digesting it, we just said, 'Let’s just go for it.'"
No. 3 Creighton Prep. No. 2 Omaha South. No. 1 Omaha Westside.
The Bearcats shut out all three.
"You come to the state tournament to play the best teams, and those are the best teams right there,” Hardy said.
Kearney’s victory was a fist pump for teams west and north of Omaha and Lincoln. The Bearcats came close to a state title in 2009, finishing runner-up.
"Anytime you do something for the first time … that’s a big statement," said Steinbrook, who has been coaching Kearney soccer since the early 2000s. "You look at the success Central and Western Nebraska teams have had over the course of the last several years.
"Take Lexington and Hastings and Columbus in Class B; Kearney, Grand Island, North Platte all had good showings this year. We take a lot of pride that that quality of soccer and the quality of players in our program has really improved over the years."
Omaha Westside (18-2) outshot Kearney 10-2 and was playing without leading scorer Peter Novoa, who was slapped with a red card after a questionable call in the semifinals.
"I have 21 other players, so it would have been nice (to have him), but it’s one of those things," Westside coach John Brian said. "We played with the players that we had. I’m sure Kearney would have done the same thing if they lost somebody. They came to play, we came to play."