McGRAW — Coach Jamey Crumb didn’t like what he was hearing.
Despite having numerous scoring chances, the third-seeded McGraw Central boys’ soccer team led by just 1-0 over visiting No. 14 LaFargeville in Wednesday’s Section 3 Class D first-round game.
Frustration had begun to set in a bit among the Eagles players, and a tinge of anger was starting to show, as well.
“I was concerned with the way they were reacting to each other,” Crumb said after what ended up being a 4-0 win by his squad. “They were getting upset with each other, placing blame as the chances kept coming.
“I told them that they had to start being positive with each other and that the stoppers and midfielders had to fill gaps we had in the middle. We were also making runs down the field instead of diagonal runs, and they knew it,” he added.
The second half proved to be a different story for both teams.
Senior forward/midfielder Jordan Cowen’s header of a cross from classmate Devon Tuttle, a defender, for his team-high 20th goal this season had opened the scoring 9:58 before halftime. It took just 4:27 for the Eagles to strike in the second half, senior forward/midfielder Josh Card converting a pass from Cowen from the near left side, about three yards into the box.
Cowen also picked up an assist on the next goal, 9:51 in, as he sent a cross to junior forward-midfielder Kevin Shorts, who scored his fourth goal of the season from close range on the right side.
Card closed out the scoring 12:15 in when he curled a corner kick from the right side past Red Knights sophomore goalie Josh Stowell for his 17th goal of the season.
“If they had a couple more chances to score and showed more attack I would have been concerned,” Crumb, his team now 14-1-1 after its 10th win in a row, said of his mindset with the one-goal lead. “We’ve had games like this. Once we get momentum and guys start putting goals in, then they start to have some fun and it comes easier for them.”
THE WINNERS HAD a 41-4 shot advantage got two saves from sophomore goalie Tyler Card (Josh’s brother), who combined with his defense for a fourth straight shutout and fifth in the last six games.
The Eagles’ opponents had scored just once in that span, Brookfield finding the net in an 8-1 home loss to McGraw on Oct. 10.
Stowell had 16 saves while freshman Collin Miskimon wasn’t called on to make any saves when Stowell was forced to leave for a short stretch after being kicked while controlling a loose ball 16:08 into the game.
McGraw missed at least two open nets with shots in the first half and also shot over the net a few times as well as just missing on some crossing passes. It all began to add up on them mentally.
“We were frustrated,” Cowen said. “We knew we were better than them once the game started and that if we played our game that we’d get a goal soon. People can get angry with each other, though, and that can break a team.
“We hadn’t played them, so didn’t pay attention to their record (the Red Knights were 7-9 coming in). We knew that they’d played some bigger schools, and were more concerned with that. They’d also played Copenhagen close, and that’s a good team, so we figured they’d be good, too.”
“There was definitely frustration setting in, but we knew it was just a matter of time until we found the back of the net,” Josh Card said. “Once I scored my first goal it felt like we should go out and get another one, and it just added on.”
“After their second goal we quit playing, in a way,” LaFargeville coach Jamie Jeffers said. “The key was moving the ball; McGraw is a good team with a tough defense, and they played well. They had strong positioning and moved the ball up the field well.
“I told out boys not to hang their heads. This is my third year coaching the team and we’ve made the Frontier League playoffs and sectionals all three years. We’re a young team with three seniors, only one of whom is a real soccer players. But we’ve got a good core of seven juniors who have been playing together since they were six years old. I’m looking forward to next season.”
ALL TOLD, TYLER CARD and his teammates have shut out 11 of their 16 opponents this season, allowing a total of just five goals (one each in five different games) while scoring 68. It all adds up to a lot of idle time between the pipes for Card.
“This is what happened a lot this season,” he said of Tuesday’s game. “I have to continue to communicate with the defense. Sometimes coach gives me the opportunity to help out the younger defenders and tell then where to go. And I have a zone — if anyone gets between midfield and the 18-yard line I pay attention, because any shot from that area can go in.”
The Eagles got some good news just as they dispersed after the game, finding out that sixth-seeded Madison was coming to town Friday for a 3 p.m. quarterfinal contest after beating No. 11 Pebble Hill 3-0 Wednesday.
The Blue Devils (13-4) tied McGraw for first place in the Central Counties League at 11-1 this season, and the teams split their two games during the season, each winning at home. Madison scored a 1-0 victory on Sept. 14 and McGraw won 2-1 on Sept. 26.
“We’re kind of excited,” Crumb said with a smile. “After we tied for the CCL championship, this a chance to say ‘There!’ and prove that we’re better.”