Jubilant Bisons call soccer title beautiful

Art Carter
Date Published: 
Baltimore Afro-American

MIAMI, Fla. — "It was beautiful." "It was historic." "It was great, this will help us a lot," and "We've waited years for his moment . . ."

Those were the descriptive clauses shouted, loud and clear, by coaches, fond followers, players, rival coaches and fans in the dimming lights of the Orange Bowl Thursday night as undefeated Howard University's soccer team joyously left the field as National Collegiate Athletic Association champions.

The Bison kickers won the American championship in a suspense-packed game over the previously unbeaten NCAA champions, St. Louis University, by a 3-2 score, leaving the 5,852 spectators stunned and limp from excitement.

It was a historic night for Howard and for black colleges and universities as it marked the first time in sports history that a major NCAA championship had been won by a black university in any sport.

It was the end of the rainbow for Howard which has sought for years to gain recognition in top NCAA circles.

Coach Lincoln Phillips was all smiles. "This is the biggest thing that I have achieved in my whole life," the lithe Bison coach declared.

He was joined by Ted Chambers, the veteran coach who was at the helm of the Bison kickers for two decades but now serves as assistant. Chambers emphasized "This is great, we've waited a quarter of a century to get into the NCAA final and play the best. It is wonderful . . . my dream has come true."

Howard's athletic director, Leo Miles was equally enthusiastic. he said: "This means much to us. It will help us in more ways than you can immagine. We are proud of this team. They performed wonderfully."

Then Miles, in a humorous quip, added: "Now I'll go back to the hotel and and wait for Mr. Nixon's call." The President did not call, however, but others had glowing praise for the Howard victory — the first national championship won by any Washington institution including the Redskins and former Washington Senators in 25 years.

Coach Harry Keough, tutor of the losing Billiken team, which had its 44-game unbeaten record and 25 straight win mark erased by Howard, declared:

"You must give credit to the Howard team (15-0). I'd say this is the finest team we played this year."

It is significant that St. Louis won eight of the 13 NCAA soccer championships, and last lost to Maryland University in 1968.

About that loss, Coach Keough said: "I felt then we had been beaten by the lesser team, but not tonight. Howard's winning shot (the kick that broke the 2-2 tie) was beautiful. The team is great."

Then Keough, holding the second place team trophy, said: "Nobody wins every game. We've been trying to hold back the tide. Maybe that's why it hurts. I guess you have to learn how the other half feels. I guess second in the country isn't bad."

Perhaps the most glowing praise came from Garo Yepremian, the explosive Miami Dolphin placekicker, who was a kingpin soccerite in his native Cyprus. The Dolphin star, who kicked out the first ball to start the championship contest said:

"They (Howard) play good soccer, especially for college kids. In fact they play better than the professional teams did in this country four or five years ago. They make mistakes, but they are young. I used to watch the Detroit Cougars and these kids are better."

Howard's two All-America stars, Al Henderson, who scored two goals in the 3-2 triumph, and Keith Acqui, who played despite doctor's orders to "cool it," were among the game's standouts though basically it was great team effort that kept the Bisons in the battle and won the championship.

St. Louis got off to an early start and it appeared that Howard might blow its big chance. The Billikens were on the board after 4:24 of the first quarter as Mike Seerey rebounded a shot off a Bison defender.

Henderson tied the score at 7:13, but Dennis Hadican put the Billikens ahead once more with Seerey assisting at 9:55.

With Howard behind, 2-1, Acqui, who had a fever of 104 the night before and was still bothered by a leg infection that had come from a fall on the Orange Bowl's Polly Turf, begged to go in. He couldn't stay on the bench any longer.

Coach Phillips later said "Acqui came to me with tears in his eyes. I knew he should not have played, but I couldn't tell him no. Once he got in he played the rest of the game and really held our offense together."

With Acqui now marshalling the offense, Howard again tied the score at 2-2 with 4:08 left in the first half. Diminutive Mori Diane rammed a shot past the St. Louis goalie after Henderson headed the ball to him at the right of the net.

Howard wasted little time after the intermission, scoring the winning goal at 1:01 of the third period, the only goal of the tightly fought second half.

Henderson, playing inspired ball for his father, Horace Henderson, who had made the trip from Trinidad to see his son play, tallied on a driving shot from 25 yards out. Thereafter, Howard played ball control soccer and kept the Billikens away from the nets despite the consistent offense thrusts of the defending champions.

Coach Phillips, explaing the early strong offensive drive of the third period, said "The last thing I told them in the locker room was to take shots from outside the penalty area and it worked. I though the St. Louis Goalie wasn't ready for long shots and I guess I was right."

The brilliant victory left Howard with a 15-0 season, with 91 goals and only nine scored against them.

To reach the finals, Howard defeated Harvard University, 1-0, and St. Louis eliminated San Francisco University, 3-2. Earlier, Howard beat West Virginia University, Navy and Penn State in the Eastern Regional eliminations.