Watch out for the Cincinnatus boys’ soccer team in the first five minutes of each game.
That message was underlined Wednesday afternoon as the third-seeded Red Lions needed just 31 seconds to score against visiting No. 14 Madison and scored again 4:47 in on their way to a 7-0 win in the first round of the Class D sectionals.
“That’s what these kids do,” Cincy coach Gordy Brown said after his team had improved to 14-2 on the season with its third win in as many games against Madison, a fellow Central Counties League squad, on a cold and sometimes blustery and wet day. “They come at you the first five minutes, always. They go out 120 percent.
“Possession was the key for us today, being able to pass the ball. You don’t want to give the ball to a team like that on a day like today; strange things can happen.”
Sophomore forward Caden Stafford assisted on the winners’ first two goals, the first by his brother Cason, a freshman midfielder, and the second by senior forward Nick Owen. Caden Stafford then scored the next three goals, giving him 37 on the season to break the school single-season scoring record of 36 set by Kim Knickerbocker in the 1970s.
The older Stafford’s first goal was assisted by freshman midfielder Scott Schuyler with 18:26 left in the first half. he closed out the first half with an unassisted tally with 9:16 remaining, and scored the first goal of the second half 6:02 in, assisted by brother Cason.
“My teammates helped me a lot,” Caden Stafford said, never mentioning that he’d set the school record. “They make a lot of good passes, and finish well for me. I was a little bit surprised (with the final margin); I thought they’d put up a bigger fight. But we played well, one of the best games we’ve had all year. Even the weather (including a hard, cold, driving rain for the last part of the first half) didn’t seem to bother us. I was a little surprised.”
Senior defender Christian Gallow converted a penalty kick with 8:11 left after Cason Stafford was upended in the box, and senior Jeffrey Rice, who played in the field after spending the first half in goal, finished the scoring in the waning seconds on a deflection from a Madison player.
“I thought we came out a little slow in the first half minutes of the second half,” Brown said. “We were in a funk. That’s the hardest thing, when you get to feeling confident. We coach against that.
“Caden had a great game, and (senior) Ryan Petty did a good job at sweeper, talking well the whole game, Our center midfielders, (sophomore) Nolan Rice and Cason, were the key to our possession, and Jeffrey played well in goal.”
“They pass so well,” said Madison coach Michael Strong after his team had wound up a 7-9-1 season. “There was nothing my team could do. Gordy is a good coach and has his guys playing well.”
Cincy had a 23-5 shot advantage and took six corner kicks while Madison didn’t have any. Rice made six saves in the first half and freshman Kooper Vosburg stopped one shot in the second half. Junior Jake Vedder made six saves for the visitors before junior Gavin Helmke came on for the last 11 minutes and stopped one shot.
With the win, the Red Lions, the 14th-ranked Class D team in the state, advance to host No. 6 Lyme (11-6) in the Class D quarterfinals Friday at 3 p.m. The Indians advanced on Tuesday by beating No. 11 Copenhagen 2-1 on penalty kicks in a battle of Frontier League squads.
“I saw a little video of Lyme,” Brown said. “We’re going to play every game like it’s for the championship. If we play our game we can beat any team; if we don’t, any team can beat us.”
Strong has also scouted Lyme, and said of Friday’s matchup that “It should be an easy Cincinnatus victory. They’re a great team.”