WAVERLY — When a team doesn’t play its most crisp soccer — and still takes a 7-1 lead before all of the starters are removed — the opposition certainly has a right to be worried.
On Saturday, that’s exactly what the Northwest Mohawks’ boys soccer program did as Northwest used the stellar combination play of Harald Rundquist and Tyler Webb — who combined for all seven of the Mohawks’ goals in its Division III District Semifinal contest against the Chesapeake Panthers — to obtain a 7-3 victory en route to coming within a single step from its ultimate goal.
For Josh Keeney, it was a strong finish that aided his Northwest squad in the result that it was able to obtain on Saturday afternoon.
“Getting out to a fast start has helped us all season, but yesterday, I thought that once we got up 2-0, we let up the intensity and didn’t play well the rest of that first half,” Keeney said. “In the second half, we played with more energy and got up 7-1 before my younger guys got to come in and play over the rest of the game.”
As has been the case all season, Northwest wasted no time setting the tone as the Mohawks got off to a splendid start in Saturday’s affair behind its gargantuan offensive attack in one of the more exciting first halves that one could hope to see in a soccer contest.
Rundquist, in particular, got things rolling in a fast manner. The standout soccer talent used his abilities — and excellent passes from Austin Speer and Chase McClay, the latter of whom found Rundquist in front from 50 yards out — to score in the fifth and seventh minute of action en route to giving Northwest its 2-0 advantage early on.
However, after Rundquist just missed wide left and wide right of goal in the 12th and 13th minutes, Chesapeake began to show off an improved attack from an offensive perspective. After three near misses by the Panthers and another shot by Rundquist that just missed off to the left of goal, Chesapeake’s continued pressure forced Northwest into an erred clearance, which allowed the Panthers to cut Northwest’s lead to a 2-1 margin in the 31st minute of play.
“I thought that Chesapeake came out with a better plan than earlier in the year, and we made a few mistakes in the back that put them back in the game at one point,” Keeney said. “I think a few injuries here and there messed up our rhythm and style of play as well, but their coach is doing a heck of a job with that program.”
But Rundquist, ever the competitor, wasn’t able to let the lead — and the win — slip through Northwest’s grasp. After Webb’s free kick just missed in the 32nd minutes, Rundquist received a pass from the 40-yard marker, sprinted all the way to the edge of the box, and slapping home another shot less than two minutes later to put the Mohawks up by a 3-1 tally. Then, five minutes after Rundquist obtained his hat trick, Webb started working on his own mark by blasting a liner from right to left into the upper 90 to put Northwest up by a 4-1 tally at halftime.
“Tyler and Harald have been a big key to our success with their speed and finishing ability,” Keeney said. “Ty has come a long way since last year and by adding Harald it has made him much better by taking that pressure off.”
In the second half, Webb continued to show off his stellar improvement by sprinting right down the middle of the seams to score yet again in the 47th minute, then — off of a beautiful touch pass from Rundquist — sprinted down the right side of the field to add yet another strike in the 61st tally of action en route to obtaining a hat trick of his own. The senior then capped the Northwest scoring in a similar fashion to the way that he ended the first 40 minutes by taking another excellent feed — this time, from Mason Campbell — en route to scoring on another liner from the right side to the left side of the field in the 71st tick.
“I felt that the combination play between our offensive guys is getting better and better each game,” Keeney said. “I feel that we can play a possession game and wait for an opening to take advantage.”
With the 7-3 victory over Chesapeake, Northwest moved to 19-0 on the year and continued its standout campaign in the process. The Mohawks will not only have a chance to hit the 20-win plateau, but also, obtain a Division III District Championship with a win over North Adams in one of two district final matchups. Northwest, who defeated North Adams by a 1-0 count in a thrilling matchup at home on Sept. 13, will play the Green Devils on Thursday evening at 5 p.m. in Waverly.
“I expect to go out and play our game,” Keeney said. “I like our odds if we play possession soccer and keep the intensity high. Last time we played them it was on grass and raining, so hopefully this week its a bit different. They play more of a defensive formation so I don’t see a high scoring game, but one or two goals could win it.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT