Since middle-school athletic teams have strict parameters to which they must adhere concerning the number of games they are allowed to play and since new schools continue to join the Henlopen Conference, it has become increasingly difficult for each team to play every other team in a season.
And with no state tournament for middle-school play, Dover Central (14-1-2) and Selbyville Middle School (12-0) decided to leave it all on the field in a post-season “challenge match” at Selbyville Middle School on Nov. 6.
“We had one of the better records in our division, and we heard Selbyville had a pretty good team, so we figured we come on down and see what happened,” said Dover Central head coach Ben Nelson.
Selbyville downed Dover Central easily, 6-0, behind a hat-trick by Caleb Buchler and additional goals by Victor Cuenca, Nick Izzo, Jesus Fernandez and three assists by Josh Mercer.
The Indians 2-0 lead came on goals from Cuenca and Buchler’s first goal. The lead could have and probably should have been more, since Dover Central had a first-year goalie toeing the line, but poor passing by both teams limited the offenses in the first half.
“We were a little more kick-and-run than I wanted. Usually we move the ball through possession. But it seemed that we made more passes to the blue team than we did green in the first half,” Indians head coach Neal Barch said. “Then, finally, in the last five minutes of the half, we realized what we were supposed to do.”
Mercer earned all three of his assists in the second half and the Indians Connor Danaher laced a cross from the right sideline to a wide open Izzo for a one-on-one goal with the keeper.
Selbyville scored six goals on nine shots on goal, and keeper Kevin Rowe earned his 10th shutout of the season.
In an attempt to reward Rowe for his efforts this season, Barch routinely pulled him from the goal for a penalty kick attempt, in hopes that he’d get his first goal of the season. When Selbyville had acquired a comfortable lead during the season, Barch would swap Rowe into the field in favor of giving their back up keeper some time, but he was never able to punch it in.
So, leading up to the challenge match, Barch’s players wanted to know if Rowe would get another chance and, sure enough, he did. But the shot went right to the keeper, and then Rowe had to hustle back to defend his unoccupied goal.
“I told them, ‘Yeah, sure,’” Barch said of the players’ request on Rowe’s behalf. “But I told him that he had to get back because it was a live ball.”
Rowe didn’t get his goal, but he did make four saves and the rest of the Indian defense limited Dover Central to only four shots.
This year’s 10-0 soccer team will lose 10 starters and three of the first five off the bench to graduation in the spring, so spots on next year’s team are up for grabs.
“We reload every year,” Barch said. “We expect something of our seventh-graders.”