The Smith-Cotton soccer team beat O’Hara 8-1 on Tuesday at Susie Ditzfeld Memorial Field, claiming the West Central Conference title outright.
“It means a lot,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ethan Weller. “It’s something we set our goals on every year and especially last year after we kind of felt like we squandered the two chances against Pius and we felt like we should have been in the running last year and we played ourselves out of it. Ever since we played Pius last year, and they wrapped it up, it was a goal to make sure we got it back this year. It’s worked out for us. We’ve still got one (conference game) to go. Even though it’s wrapped up, we still have our goal of going undefeated in the conference this year.”
The win came at a cost as Smith-Cotton lost goalkeeper Landon Dove to a red card in the 70th minute as he and another S-C player challenged on a Celtics run into the box. A penalty shot was awarded after the O’Hara player went down and the Celtics converted it for their only goal of the game.
Even with 10 men, S-C pushed through to score another goal as Riley Moore scored from 30 yards out, his second goal of the game with both coming from long range.
O’Hara’s limited chances in the first half came from Michael Drake runs but they rarely got far. His first resulted in a long shot from well outside the area, which Dove stopped with little effort. Most other runs were stopped by the Tigers back line of Alex Wenner, Vlad Varshytskyy, Roberto Ramirez and Thomas Todd.
“The big thing was making sure we get on him early and don’t give him space,” Weller said. “A couple times he got free and had a chance to run at us and was very dangerous and about put one in. … Defensively, we did a good job of slowing him down so I was real proud of the back line in responding to him because he was a tough kid to handle.”
S-C took a 4-0 lead in the first half thanks to crisp passing. Carlos Aguirre put the Tigers on the board in the fifth minute after Jordan Lawson played a ball into the corner, then sent a centering pass to Luke Guier who tapped it back to Aguirre.
“The kids have worked pretty well these past few games on getting forward with pace and with a purpose and building out of the back, not being so direct,” Weller said. “I thought the combination play was very good. The ball was being snapped around, our forwards were checking to the ball, laying it off, and we had other forwards running off of that which created a lot of chances for us. We were very dangerous going forward.”
The Tigers made it 2-0 with an O’Hara own-goal off a corner kick. Shots from outside the area by Lawson in the 28th minute and Moore in the 39th minute provided the third and fourth goals.
Aguirre assisted on a goal from Guier in the 53rd minute. Brendan Hofheins scored in the 62nd minute, tapping in the rebound of a shot by Lawson which had been saved. A header from Eduardo Alonso made it 7-0 in the 66th.
Smith-Cotton will host St. Pius X to close out the conference season on Monday.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles