With 14 seniors on the roster, and many expecting to contribute heavily in a shortened 2020 high school soccer season, the McCracken County Mustangs opened up on the road — high hopes of a tight road contest against Daviess County on the minds of many.
Eighty minutes later, the Panthers — 2019 KHSAA state runners-up to Henry Clay — were 5-0 winners, easily saddling Michael Wiersema’s seasoned bunch with a second-half sortie.
“That was a wakeup call,” Wiersema said. “I think we kind of had a feeling of entitlement, and that we just needed to throw our shoes out there. And that got our attention. We were able to start playing together a little better.”
“The majority of seniors have played together since we were five, six years old,” added senior Caleb Madison. “We just thought we had it. We didn’t come out knowing there was competition. Obviously, we knew, but we didn’t take it serious. We played it more as an individual game, instead of a team game. And from that point on, we’ve worked and gotten better progressively from every game, and played as a team. And for me, that’s where a lot of our success is coming from.”
Since that Sept. 7 start, the Mustangs have gone 7-0-2 — after throttling a short-staffed Calloway County squad at home on Saturday, 8-0 — with ties against Central Hardin and Henderson County, wins against Graves County, St. Mary, Paducah Tilghman, Owensboro, Elizabethtown and Evansville Memorial (Indiana).
At the heart of the streak: sharing, and health.
Leading into Saturday night’s highly-anticipated matchup against the Marshall County Marshals, McCracken County had assisted on 29 of its 37 goals (78.4% assist rate), as back-to-front movement remains key in Wiersema’s offense.
At the forefront of the “sharing-is-caring” belief — seniors in Madison (10 goals, five assists), Riley Skinner (six goals, three assists), Reese Bohde (four goals, four assists), Dylan Deweese (four goals, three assists), Jaxon Miller (three goals, four assists) and Max LaFont (one goal, three assists).
“We care,” noted Bodhe, who came away with a hat trick on Saturday morning against the Lakers. “We all grew up playing with each other. It’s not like it’s just one person who really wants to play for stats, or whatever.
“We care about each other, and assisting is a big part. It’s taking the easy chance instead of trying to do it all yourself, which you’re not going to be successful doing.”
Skinner is dealing with an unfortunate MCL injury sustained in the Henderson County match on Oct. 1, but the rest of the Mustangs are in good shape — particularly Madison (foot) and Bohde (knee), who combined to miss 22 games in last year’s First Region runner-up finish to the Marshals.
They’ve played in all 10 games for the Mustangs this season virtually unimpeded, and again suited up on Saturday night against the Marshals.
“It was weird last year, because no one ever expects to get injured,” Bohde said. “When it came to this year, and obviously with us being seniors ... it’s kind of our last chance. And we’re playing against teams that we missed last year because of injuries, so it’s a chance to show them that we’re good. If we were there last year, we would’ve been doing the same things.”
“We’re just taking the chances that we have and making the most out of them,” added Madison. “Our coach has done an exceptional job just for us. As seniors, there’s so many of us — maybe 13 or 14 — and he’s made sure that he’s got us the full amount of games that we can have. And credit to that. But at the same time, he doesn’t let it get to our head. We’re just taking the chances that we get, really, and that’s a big thing for us this year.”
MCCRACKEN 8, CALLOWAY 0
First Half — 9’ MC Jaxon Miller (Caleb Madison assists), 22’ MC Ari Obando (unassisted), 33’ MC Reese Bohde (unassisted), 39’ MC Jaxon Miller (Max LaFont assists).
Second Half — 41’ MC Reese Bohde (unassisted), 41’ MC Jaxon Miller (Max LaFont assists), 49’ MC Reese Bohde (Max LaFont assists), 59’ MC Jack Perriello (Nehemiah Ivey assists).
Shots: MC 22, CAL 2. Saves: MC Gavin O’Donley 3, Grayson Parish 2, CAL Landon Houk 8.
MC 7-1-2; CAL 4-4
Mustangs, Marshals draw late Saturday
Considered two of the best teams in the First Region and a combined 16 wins between them, McCracken County and Marshall County played to a nil-nil draw in Saturday’s nightcap — with keepers Gavin O’Donley (Mustangs) and Ben Burkeen (Marshals) posting critical clean sheets for their squads.
With the outcome, neither team has yet to fall to a First Region opponent.
MCCRACKEN 0, MARSHALL 0
First Half — none.
Second Half — none.
Shots: MC 14, MAR 9.
MC 7-1-3, MAR 9-1-1