ROSEMOUNT — For most high school soccer players, scoring six goals in a career is an accomplishment.
But six goals in one game? That’s something that is rarely seen in any soccer match, which made Evan Throckmorton’s accomplishment all the more special.
On Monday evening, Throckmorton, who is a standout student-athlete for the Northwest Mohawks’ soccer program, put together a performance to remember in the first boys soccer contest of 2017 for both programs as Throckmorton’s six goals — all in unassisted fashion — allowed the junior to tie Josh Keeney’s record for goals scored in a game as Northwest defeated the Clay Panthers, 7-1, in a nonconference bout that was played at Clay High School in Rosemount.
For Keeney, Throckmorton’s six-goal affair proved to be a much-needed spark for the Mohawks, who actually spent the vast majority of the first half playing catch up to Clay after the Panthers established a 1-0 advantage early in the contest.
“I thought that we came out kind of slow,” Keeney said. “Clay played really well in the first half, hustled, and had a lot of intensity in that first half. In the second half, we started to pass the ball around, and it got to their conditioning. We turned it on there at the end and finished it off. Give credit to Clay. They played their hearts out. They’ve got a few guys missing, and they’re really young, so hat’s off to them.”
As far as first-year head coach Doug Ledingham was concerned, the Panthers’ overall performance was nothing short of gritty, especially considering that Clay was missing half of its starting lineup in Monday’s contest.
“We have 10 freshman on our roster and seven sophomores, and half of our starting lineup is out due to two ineligible players and injuries,” Ledingham said. “We’ve really had a rough preseason. However, the kids just keep getting better and better. Every scrimmage, I see improvement, and the kids play hard from the beginning of the game to the end. I’m proud of them.”
If the Panthers were missing anybody from its starting lineup, it was certainly hard to tell early on as Ledingham’s youthful bunch brought the work ethic and intensity that is normally seen out of upperclassmen. In fact, Clay used its gritty effort and pace to strike first, when Caden Cline took an interior pass from Jared Conkel and launched a clever shot that found back netting as the Panthers took a 1-0 advantage just eight minutes into the contest.
“Caden has just come back to soccer,” Ledingham said. “He played U-15 for me. He’s a really good kid and he’s going to score more goals as the season goes on. Jared is a great player, too.”
As time went on, Northwest was able to dominate the time of possession thanks to excellent ball control and passing that was spearheaded by Throckmorton, Tyler Webb, and Hunter Berry, among others.
However, Dakota Dodds, along with the entire Clay backline, had other ideas. Despite putting two dozen shots on goal in the first half, Northwest was held scoreless for the first 30 minutes of the affair thanks to several brilliant saves by Dodds and an excellent gameplan from Ledingham that included packing down the backline. Dodds, who was an Honorable Mention All-Southeast District selection last year and a baseball standout as a freshman, made an incredible 37 saves in the contest as Clay stayed with the larger and more experienced Northwest squad for the first 48 minutes of the contest.
“Dakota’s absolutely lights-out,” Ledingham said. “I believe that he ended up with 37 saves today. I don’t want him to have 37 saves, but he can do it, and he’s a great kid, too.”
However, the complexion of the entire contest changed in the 31st minute, when Webb, who had put intense pressure on the Clay backline all game to that point, was fouled on the near side of the box. This allowed Throckmorton, who took the ensuing penalty kick for Northwest, to pound a ball to the far side of the net as the Mohawks tied the score before the halftime break ensued.
“Tyler (creating the penalty kick opportunity) and the resulting goal opened up a lot more space everywhere for us,” Throckmorton said. “We played out wide, it opened up the middle for me, and I just took my chances.”
Despite having to adjust defensively, and dealing with a relentless Northwest attack, Clay was able to keep the score knotted at one apiece as the Panthers’ backline, along with Dodds, continued to make hustle plays that gave the Mohawks fits.
“(Doug Ledingham) did a good job of trying to slow down the game,” Keeney said. “He put a couple of extra guys back to slow the pace down, which is smart coaching. That worried me for a little bit, but once we got on the board, it changed the complexion of the game and got us going back in the right direction.”
But as the 49th minute approached, Throckmorton proceeded to take his game to another level.
With at least three defenders in his way every time the ball sat at his feet, Throckmorton proved that he wasn’t going to be denied, as the junior, on four consecutive occasions from the 49th to the 70th minute, beat multiple defenders en route to punching the ball in the net at different angles to turn a 1-1 game into a 5-1 count. The Top20 Club standout added his final goal on the right side of the box in the 74th minute to cap off a splendid effort.
“It feels great,” Throckmorton said of tying his coach’s school record. “I was able to tie (Keeney’s) record with six goals. That’s the reason that he took me out,” he joked.
“There was five minutes left,” Keeney shot back with a smile.
“Evan had a good year last season, and he’s going to be hard to stop this year,” Keeney said on a more serious note. “Basically, he can take over games, as you saw, and he’s just a junior, which is the truly scary part. Him scoring six out of our seven goals tells you all that you need to know right there.”
With Throckmorton getting a well-deserved rest with the game out of reach, Jacob Eichenlaub got his opportunity to shine with a goal in the 77th minute after an impressive left-to-right finish from the near side that accounted for Northwest’s final goal.
“Jacob is coming along well for us, too,” Keeney said. “He got loose on the left side, and he can finish, especially for a young guy.”
With Monday’s victory, Northwest was able to start the season with a 1-0 mark. The Mohawks will host Valley on Wednesday as Northwest will look to continue to build on its district semifinal campaign from last season.
“We had quite a few errors in the back, especially in the first half with balls in the air,” Keeney said. “However, I’m really looking forward to playing Valley on Wednesday, and obviously, heading into the SOC II schedule with Minford is going to be tough, as always.”
As for Clay, Ledingham will look to continue to develop his youthful roster over the coming hours before a nonconference bout with Chesapeake commences on Thursday evening.
“It looks really bright for the future at Clay,” Ledingham said. “Northwest is a tough contest to open any season with, but 10 of our first 12 games are at home, which will help us on down the road and is a tremendous advantage, especially for a young team. I couldn’t be prouder of our players. They’re great kids.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7