MINFORD — Over the course of the 2017 season, the Northwest Mohawks’ boys soccer program has rolled through each of the opponents that it has faced en route to an undefeated mark.
On Thursday evening, however, the Minford Falcons were determined to not allow Northwest to roll to a rout, as nine of the Mohawks’ previous 10 affairs had been.
And over the duration of the 80-minute SOC II conference affair on Thursday evening, the fans that attended the contest on both sides weren’t disappointed, especially over a 17-minute span where both teams combined for all five of the goals scored in the contest between the 15th and the 32nd minute of the contest.
Ultimately, however, Northwest proved why the Mohawks are, indeed, the newest power unit in the SOC II ranks as of the present day as Northwest used two early Tyler Webb goals, along with a game-winning rebound blast from Harald Rundquist, to pull out a 3-2 victory over a strong effort from Minford in the heart of Muletown.
For Josh Keeney, the effort from his boys was, indeed, impressive, not only considering how well-coached and talented Minford is, but how hard it is for any opponent to beat the Falcons on their home turf.
“We’ve still got some work to do before we can lock up the SOC II crown, but we’re a step closer now,” Keeney said. “It’s been a while for us, so it feels good. I thought Minford did a really good job tonight. They put guys in different positions than they did last time in order to slow down our offensive attack, and they got some excellent offensive chances and goals that were scary, but our guys pulled through in the second half and pulled it off.”
As for Dave Gampp, Minford’s effort in the contest was certainly nothing to be ashamed, especially considering that the Falcons arguably gave an undefeated and untied Northwest squad its toughest match of the year.
“I’ve coached high school varsity soccer for seven years, and this is, by far, the best team Josh has ever had,” Gampp said. “He’s coached them right and he’s got some really good talent up top. I thought that we had a chance tonight, and we still might beat Northwest if we meet in the district tournament, but I wish them nothing but the best. They’re a really good team and a class act. As for my boys, I’m really proud of them. They gave 100 percent. I couldn’t ask for more out of them. Between tonight and the Waverly game, that’s the kind of soccer that we want to play. We played really good, it’s just that Northwest was able to get one more shot in there than we were.”
Throughout the affair, both teams’ efforts showed as each unit took their turns making successful pushes up the field. However, other than a pair of shots by Evan Throckmorton and Rundquist — which missed high and wide by inches, respectively — neither team could crack the code against the opposing unit’s backline.
That, however, all changed in the 15th minute, when Tyler Webb got loose again on the near side. The junior took a strong pass off of a through ball and connected on the near side to put Northwest up by a 1-0 tally. Less than two minutes later, it proved to be rinse, repeat for the Mohawks as Webb, again, took an excellent through ball from Rundquist and struck from the right side of the box to put Northwest up by a 2-0 tally.
“Tyler’s probably the fastest guy around,” Keeney said. “He got through twice early and scored for us, and then after that, they dropped a guy to play against that. We did a good job playing outside after that, we just couldn’t get the opportunities that we did before. Minford did a good job defensively. Hat’s off to them. It’s hard to come to Minford and win any game, let alone an SOC I battle like this.”
Gampp, admirably, took blame for allowing the two goals to occur in the first place.
“The first two goals were my fault,” Gampp said. “I didn’t get our team marked up right to start the game, and it put us down in a 2-0 hole. From that point, we had to do some shifting there, and we did a lot better. As a coach, I’ve got to be better. I should’ve caught that sooner.”
However, to the credit of Gampp and the Falcons, Minford, despite facing an 2-0 deficit with 63 minutes left to play, never showed signs of quitting.
In fact, the Falcons, during the latter half of the opening stanza, even looked like the better unit at times, as Minford was able to create runs offensively despite dropping a player back to its backline.
Ultimately, Minford’s effort and poise against a deep, experienced, and talented Northwest squad paid off in the form of Talen Coriell, who proved to be his usual excellent self on Thursday evening.
After an offsides call negated a Minford goal, Coriell came back and struck less than 15 seconds later by pounding a through ball home on the far side of the box in the 28th minute. Two minutes later, Coriell struck again as the junior scored again on a free kick from 15 yards away on the near side of the field to turn a 2-0 deficit into a tie game in a matter of 120 seconds — all despite dealing with a sinus infection that could have possibly kept the junior out of Thursday’s contest.
“Talen’s fighting a sinus infection,” Gampp said. “He was at Urgent Care yesterday getting some antibiotics, and he told me, when we started the second half, that he didn’t know if he could make it through the whole half. But he pushed through and gave it everything that he had, just like every other player on this team did. There’s a lot of pride on this team.”
However, Rundquist’s relentless effort proved to be the winning elexor that Northwest needed. Two minutes after Coriell’s blast, the Mohawks obtained an offensive opportunity from Throckmorton, who shot a blast from the far side of the box. While the shot was saved in impressive fashion by Logan Boston, Rundquist raced to the near side of the box, beat Boston to the rebound, and pounded a goal home to the far side of the net to give the Mohawks the lead for good.
As with Coriell, Rundquist, one of Northwest’s main figures in the splendid and blistering 11-0 start to the 2017 season, played under the weather, as well. The offensive standout was throwing up before the game and at halftime of the affair between the two rivals.
“Harald was actually sick today,” Keeney said. “He was throwing up over here (behind the bench), so I’m just glad he got to play. He battled and battled, and ultimately, he played 80 minutes, so I’m really proud of him. He knows how to play the game. He’s everywhere and he does everything that we need him to do. He’s obviously been a big bonus for us this year.”
“We fought back really hard to tie the game at two apiece, and then Northwest comes down and creates a good opportunity,” Gampp said. “Logan made a great save, but they crashed, and we got a little bit behind on it.”
In the second half, Minford and Northwest took their turns in making runs at the opposing backlines. While Minford held the potent Mohawks’ offensive unit scoreless in the second half, the relentless efforts of Mason Campbell, Chase McClay, and Austin Speer kept Minford from obtaining a clean look at the net as the trio hounded the Falcons’ strong offensive combinations throughout the final stanza of action.
“Mason and Chase run themselves to death,” Keeney said. “They never ask for subs. It’s unreal. Then Austin Speer is just everywhere. It’s good to have three guys across there that can just run and run and run. Our defense, as a whole, played solid. I thought that we had two or three misses that Minford capitalized on, but other than that, they played really solid.”
With the win, Northwest not only has kept itself in a position to be ranked or receiving votes inside the OSSCA banner, but has put itself in a position to control its own destiny inside the SOC II race. The Mohawks, who are now 5-0 in conference play and 11-0 overall, will play West next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and follow that match up with a pair of bouts against Waverly (Sept. 28, home, 5 p.m.) and Wheelersburg (Oct. 3, away, 5 p.m.). Those matches are all that stands between Northwest and an SOC II crown.
“We’ve had a couple of good years, but this year has obviously been one of the best in school history thus far,” Keeney said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We’ve got West Tuesday at West, so you never know. We’ve had trouble with them at West in the past, and their scores are getting better and better against their opponents. They’re nothing to take lightly. Larry Goodwin (West head coach) has them playing some good soccer.”
As for Minford, the light certainly can’t be turned off on the Falcons by any means. In fact, after going 2-4-1 to start the 2017 season, the Falcons had defeated Waverly, Westfall, and Fairland by a combined score of 13-1 to move to 5-4-1 before the tight loss to the highly regarded Mohawks on Thursday — which means that Minford could be soaring at the right time.
“We’re not down and out, by any means necessary,” Gampp said. “We play ‘Burg Tuesday, so that’s going to be another big game at Ed Miller Stadium. My boys are going to be ready to play, and I’m sure that Wheelersburg is going to be ready to play. It will be a great game.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7