Soccer, when played at its best, is a game of teamwork, communication and fluidity. The end product is, as many have said over the years, a beautiful game.
On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 18 that beautiful game was on display as the weather delivered a brief respite from heavy rains and the Cottage Grove boys soccer team dismantled a visiting Banks squad 8-0, their most complete game yet of the young 2019 season.
“If you notice the pros, they don’t communicate a lot verbally but they sure do a lot of communication based on … their approach to a ball or a pass and that’s the beauty of the game. You want to be verbal and you want to be communicating, but you want to get to a point where you know where ‘X’ is going to be before ‘X’ makes the move … and that’s what becomes harmonious about the whole game,” said head coach Vern Stewart.
While visiting Banks may not have heard many harmonies themselves in such an overwhelming loss, the Lions performed like a group whose efficiency and synergy as a team seems only poised to grow throughout the year.
After completing a come-from-behind win last week at Mazama - scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes to win 5-4 - the offensive barrage continued Wednesday evening. Underclassmen midfielders Jayden Cameron (so.) and Aldo Rea (fr.) were the stars of the show, giving the Banks defense fits up front all game long, seemingly always around or in the box threatening to score.
“It makes my job exciting that they’re this young. With seniors you’re going, ‘oh ok, we get to watch and enjoy them just this year, but shoot I’ve got one for two more after the season and the other for three more after this season so it’s pretty exciting. We’re looking forward to it,” said Coach Stewart.
Cameron and Rea both ended with two goals apiece and the Lions scoring was helped along by goals from midfielders Evan Snauer (jr.), Cory Butts (jr.), Sylas Williams (so.) and defender and second-half substitute Drew Chapman (jr.).
“The nice thing about last night is we got to give some of our subs a chance to play, and not just a chance to play but a chance for us coaches to see which ones we can actually put in to a game and still produce,” said Stewart after the game.
“Because one of the things you don’t want to do as a coach is put in subs just for the sake of putting in subs. You have to earn your playing time and then when you earn your playing time you have to keep it by doing the things that the other people that start ahead of you do and that earns you more playing time. If the play goes down in any way, you’re just going to come back out.”
But in this matchup, both the starting 11 and the substitutes who came in later in the second half worked in concert with one another to continue the Lions growing string of successes. The team scuttled to an 0-2 start after the first two games of the year, losing by a combined score of 0-9. However, in the last 91 minutes of play the Lions have scored a total of 11 goals and given up none.
“Our defense has been paying attention to how to convert it with holding the ball and then moving into an offensive attack quickly. We seemed to spend a lot of time just passing the ball back and forth, but we looked at some different things and one of the things was, we would possess the ball but we didn’t have any kind of purpose,” said Stewart in regards to his team’s need for improvement in certain areas.
“So our emphasis this week was possession with purpose, meaning if you’re going to possess it, you need to have a reason why you’re possessing it and that’s to attack.”
Cottage Grove got out to an early lead, scoring two goals within the first ten minutes and cruising into halftime with a commanding 5-0 lead. The first 10 minutes of the second half gave the impression that either the Lions had taken their foot off the gas or Banks’ defense tightened up. Alas, the Lions then scored three more goals in the span of six minutes to seal the game.
Senior midfielder Andreas Blackstone was out for this contest due to injury, but the team also got back one of its team captains, senior defender Fernando Soto-Cruz, who missed the team’s first three games.
Later in the week, the Lions also defeated visiting Astoria 6-2. It was knotted 2-2 at halftime, but Cottage Grove once again continued their recent scoring barrage, netting four more goals in the second half and holding Astoria scoreless behind the defensive leadership of Soto-Cruz. Aldo Rea added two more goals in the weekend contest.
The Lions are now 3-2 on the season and will next play Elmira at home on Thurs., Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.