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Tormenta clinches League One championship
Soccer franchise brings first professional title to Statesboro with 2-1 victory inside packed Tormenta Stadium
South Georgia Tormenta FC's Jamil Roberts, top, gets a lift from teammate Pablo Jara as the team celebrates their USL League One Championship over the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC at Tormenta Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 6. Roberts scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory.

The storm reigns in Statesboro.

Jamil Roberts’ goal in the 82nd minute put South Georgia Tormenta FC ahead 2-1 over the Chattanooga Red Wolves, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they claimed the 2022 United Soccer League One title in front of a record crowd of 3,045 fans at Tormenta Stadium.

Roberts, who had entered the game just four minutes earlier as a substitute found himself wide open on the right side while Kazaiah Sterling weaved his way through the Chattanooga Red Wolves defense on the left.

Sterling’s pass found him in stride and his first-touch, left-footed shot found the back of the net past a diving Red Wolves goalkeeper Carlos Avilez to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

“It’s one of those moments where you don’t even think about it,” Roberts said of his title-clinching goal. “It set up so perfectly and there was only thought in my mind that I was going to hit that first time.”

The win caps a remarkable turnaround season that saw Tormenta finish third in the regular season standings, the highest in club history, as well as winning their first title since joining the league in its inaugural season in 2019.

“It’s a beautiful moment for the club. There’s lots of ups and downs that come with life, but this is a really cool one and these boys deserve it,” said Ian Cameron, head coach of Tormenta.

Tormenta seemed to control the flow of the game for the first 30 minutes, but were unable to finish any of their chances.

In the 33rd minutes, however, Tormenta was awarded a penalty kick when Chattanooga took down a Tormenta player in the box.

Sterling, who had already scored three playoff goals this postseason, stepped up and buried his shot to the left of Avilez to put South Georgia up 1-0. Following his goal, he pretended to sip a cup of tea as a nod to the Tormenta USL-W team that won a title in July.

“Amy (Andrews) from the women’s team shared that as a suggestion for one of the celebrations so I thought it was only right that I bring it out during the final,” Sterling said.

It looked like that might be the score going in to the half, but three minutes into first half stoppage time, Chattanooga answered when King Tejera was able to get a head on a free kick and find the back of the net for the equalizer .

Both teams made changes to their lineup throughout the second half trying to match up with each other as the game drew nearer to the end.

“I thought it was destined for overtime,” Cameron said. “Jamil Roberts has won a national championship at Marshall and he has just that experience and he comes on with a wonderful moment for the club.”

Sterling, with a goal and an assist, was named MVP of the final.

Cameron said he knew this team had the potential to be a championship contender early in the season during the US Open Cup after wins against the Charleston Battery and Birmingham Legion.

“We went to Miami and played really, really well there and we knew that if we got into the playoffs, we’d be a really hard team to play against,” Cameron said.

Goalkeeper Pablo Jara’s free kick was the final touch on the ball and it was fitting in that Jara is one of the longest tenured players on the team with five years on the club.

“It’s unbelievable. To be honest it’s something that difficult to explain with words,” the Chilean goalkeeper said. “It’s been five years. Five years of work and looking back at year one when we didn’t have any of this and didn’t have the field that we played on tonight.”

Jara, who was replaced midseason as the starting goalkeeper, came in for the final 10 minutes to replace TJ Bush who was forced to leave with an injury. Even more special for Jara was his family who traveled from Chile to see him play in Statesboro for the first time.

“I’m so happy and proud they had the opportunity to see this and to see what the club is doing,” he said.

Cameron, Roberts, Sterling and Jara all talked about the family-like nature of the team and the support of the community in making it even more special to win in front of their home fans.

“Two and a half, three thousand people In this community, that’s massive” Cameron said. “And as we walk out there, you’re looking across and we know everybody. This is everybody that we’ve got and that makes it all the more special. This is a community-won award tonight.”