Waterloo coach Chad Holden might have been playing it close to the vest in his preseason assessment of the Bulldogs.
That no longer is possible, however, as Waterloo has rolled to victories in its first five games of the season and has emerged as a legitimate contender for the Class 2A state tournament.
“I think the secret’s out,” said Holden, whose team has defeated Gibault, Belleville East, Carbondale, Chatham Glenwood and Perryville, Mo., by a combined score of 21-2. “It’s been a great start. We’re scoring a lot of goals and not given up hardly any. The kids have been playing very well.”
Waterloo won the Carbondale Tournament championship Saturday by defeating Perryville 4-0. The Pirates were the Class 2A state champions in Missouri last November, finishing 29-1.
Junior Ben Huels scored three goals and senior Kane Osterhage had one in the title game. Waterloo opened the tournament with wins over Carbondale and Chatham Glenwood. Huels and Osterhage lead the Bulldogs with seven goals apiece.
“It’s great the way we’re playing right now,” Holden said. “We just want to make sure we’re not peaking early. We told the guys (Monday) in practice, ‘It’s great to be 5-0, but we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’ve got a lot of season to go and we still need to keep working hard.’”
Waterloo has a deep roster led by the goal-scoring exploits of Osterhage and Huels. Junior Philip Most has chipped in with three goals and senior Clay Metz has two. Huels and Most are newcomers to the Bulldogs after playing academy soccer last year.
“We have plenty of weapons we can use,” Holden said.
Defensively, seniors Chase Rubemeyer and Jon Kreher and junior Griffin Lenhardt are protecting junior goalie Trevor Coplin, who has four shutouts and 18 saves.
“Our defense has played great,” Holden said. “They’ve all proven their worth and importance back there. The majority of the games, they’ve been playing the whole time.”
Holden remembers another sizzling start by the Bulldogs in 2010, when they were 6-1 and enjoyed a 24-game unbeaten streak that wasn’t ended until the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament. The Bulldogs then defeated Burlington Central to finish in third place.
Holden, whose team will play Thursday at Belleville West (0-1), covets another trip to the tournament, which will be Nov. 6-7 at Hoffman Estates High School.
“We need a lot of things to fall into place,” Holden said. “You don’t want to peak too early and you want to make sure you stay healthy throughout the year. A big thing, too, is soccer can be a crazy sport. It’s one of those sports where you can dominate and still not win the game.”
Panthers on prowl
Waterloo isn’t the only undefeated team in the metro-east. The Southwestern Conference features three: O’Fallon, Collinsville and Edwardsville.
O’Fallon improved to 4-0 with a 3-0 victory over visiting Triad on Tuesday. The Panthers won the Metro Cup Tournament to start the season, whipping Freeburg, Marion and Springfield.
“As a unit, so far, we’re pretty strong,” Panthers coach Jason Turkington said with a note of caution as he scanned the Panthers’ schedule. “We’ll see (Thursday) night at Edwardsville. And Saturday we’re playing Springfield Glendale out of Missouri, and they’re good as well.”
Senior midfielder Jake Koenig stayed hot with two goals against Triad, giving him eight this season. Koenig is tied with Althoff senior Justin Robinson for the second-most goals in the metro-east; Alton Marquette junior Zach Weinman has 10.
“He’s dynamic on the ball and he’s talented,” Turkington said of Koenig, who has verbally committed to play at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. “He’s a confident player. He’s got four years of experience. He knows how to play. He can read the game.”
The Panthers have spread around the scoring. Senior Jacob York has three goals and two assists, senior Matt Benway has two goals and junior Austin Wilkerson had four assists.
“We’ve had some good, balanced scoring,” Turkington said. “There have been quite a few people (contribute). We’ve got some other guys that have a lot of potential to score.”
Gibault lost to Waterloo 4-0 in its season opener Aug. 24, but the inexperienced Hawks (3-3) recovered nicely by capturing third place in the Metro Cup Tournament.
The Hawks’ two wins in the tourney were against solid opponents, Highland and Marion. Their loss came to Springfield, which finished third in the Class 2A state tournament last year.
“It took us a little bit to get our feet wet, but we’re starting to understand things and we’ve actually grown a lot since that first week,” Gibault coach Matt Reeb said. “We played some quality teams (in the tournament). We’re excited about where we’re moving. We want to continue to progress, though.”
Seniors Caleb Schilling and Jake Rueter have stabilized the Hawks’ defense. Junior forwards Dalton Scace (five goals) and Ben Mueth (three goals) and sophomore midfielder Karson Huels (three assists) have powered the offense. Scace had the only goal in the 1-0 win over Marion.
Indians starting to jell
Mascoutah dropped its season opener to Marion, then recorded wins over Metro-East Lutheran, Mount Vernon and Civic Memorial to capture ninth place in the Metro Cup Tournament.
The Indians (3-1), already with half as many victories as they had last season, are being led on offense by seniors Ethan Mayberry (three goals, two assists) and Andrew Villarreal (five goals). Sophomore Kyle Vargas has one goal and sophomore Kyle Frerker is tied with Mayberry for the team lead with two assists.
“Not too bad so far,” Mascoutah coach Nick Carr said. “We’ve struggled the last two years. Hopefully, we’re kind of getting things going the right way now.”
The Indians, who have had quality teams in the last decade, ran into tough times from 2009-12 when they won just two games each season. They won six games in 2013 and 2014.
“We have some young players,” said Carr, a Mascoutah graduate. “We also have a pretty good senior class that is leading them in the right way. It’s going to be more of a team effort. We’re more technical than we have been in the past. We’re able to maintain possession with a lot more ease. That’s really showed in some of the games we’ve played so far.”
The Indians will face perhaps their toughest assignment of the early season when they play at defending Class 2A state champion Columbia at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Boys Soccer Poll
(Records in parentheses)
1. Collinsville (2-0)
2. Waterloo (5-0)
3. O’Fallon (4-0)
4. Edwardsville (3-0-1)
5. Columbia (1-0-1)
Honorable Mention: Belleville West (0-1); Highland (3-1); Althoff (3-3); Alton (2-1-2); Triad (1-3-1); Gibault (3-3); Mascoutah (3-1).