Although waking up earlier on Saturday than I do during the week kind of sucked, it was a gorgeous day when we arrived in Lincoln. The temperature was around 50 when we warmed up for our first game and only 20 or so degrees warmer when wrapped up our last.
Saturday marked my first game day as head coach and I was more nervous than I was letting on. A Thursday night injury to senior captain Sam Arends did not help matters. During the closing minutes of a damp and dreary evening, Arends looked to check a d-pole and separated his shoulder. Since my offensive game plan partially revolved around him, this left me scrambling to fill his spot.
Game 1 – Valley 6, Millard North 5
In the lead up to this game, my focus was on putting the best possible player into Arends’ role while doing the least amount of damage to the midfield. After working through a few scenarios, I started eighth grader Bobby Benson. Benson had participated in our summer youth program and continuously demonstrated strong talent. In addition to having strong fundamentals, Benson also showed promise on face offs, so I acknowledged that I was taking a loss on that front as well.
We played this game with a modified double triangle offense. Since Griess and Arends are normally middies that prefer to dodge from the point, we slid them up on attack and stretched the middies across GLE. This offensive scheme clicked during practice and the boys embraced it. On game day, without Arends on the right side, it was a struggle.
Coming into this game, we had the defense nearly solidified with newcomer Marcum in goal, captain McEntee and returning Thompson with poles. The third slot became a game time decision; we ultimately went with newcomer Halder for his athleticism and intensity. Overall, the defense performed as asked. As Dowd and the Oberender brothers rotated in, there were few gaffs among the poles. Unfortunately defensive communication among the middies was lacking.
Our biggest weaknesses in this game would hold true for the remainder of the day. The middies struggled to get back on defense and had trouble marking up. Despite hours of clearing drills, they had issues helping Marcum and the poles. Communication was weak across the board.
Game 2 – Westside 4, Valley 2
After sustaining an ankle injury in the Millard North game, Smith sat this one out. Barely 5′ tall newcomer Hughes-Reilly took his spot at X. Still toying with the attack unit, Degen took over for Benson who moved back to midfield. We shifted to a 1-4-1, which we had not practiced.
Offensively, we played a better game. Unfortunately Westside’s goalkeeping was top notch and Griess was cursed by the pipe monster. He got off plenty of shots, as did Degen and the middies, but nearly everything that wasn’t saved by the keeper pinged off the posts.
Lawless made his debut in this game with McEntee and Thompson. The poles once again stepped up as a unit and worked with Marcum to keep us in the game.
Game 3 – Valley 9, Burke 8
After getting his ankle checked and cleared, Smith rejoined the attack unit. Griess ran the attack from the point, Smith hung on the wing, and Hughes-Reilly remained at X. As in the first two games, Coleman took the opening draw with Davis on the wing. This time around exhaustion sidelined Kapustka so we went without an LSM.
We went on a tear after an early goal by Griess and an unbelievable goal from Hughes-Reilly. With a sizable lead, more players rotated in. Though we held our advantage for a considerable time, it did not take long for complacency and laziness to take hold. Suddenly we found ourselves tied with the Bulldogs.
As the clock wore down, a well coordinated move by Griess led to the eventual game winner. With just over a minute to play, the maintained possession with good ball movement while still attacking the cage.
Game 4 – Lincoln 10, Valley 0
As happens so often with this tournament, the fourth game featured our toughest opponent. It also came at a time when we were full of injuries and lacking energy. McEntee had gone down before the Burke game, aggravating an injury sustained in practice. Kapustka suffered major cramping. Degen dropped after a run. Davis took a Griess shot on his knee that caused it to swell and go numb. There were a few more casualties as well.
With a team full of youngsters and newbies, we took the field. Thompson stepped up his game, determined to show just how deserving he is of a starting varsity position come spring. He led the defense through his words and actions. Marcum made at least five saves for every goal.
Unfortunately for us Lincoln was on. The issues outlined under the Millard North game were in full effect this time around and made worse by fatigue and injuries. By the end of the game, it was obvious that everybody gave everything they had and could leave the field with their heads up.
Overall, I am satisfied with our performance. Sure we had a couple of close wins and a pair of losses, but at the end of the day it’s only fall ball. I was able to assess new and returning players, and they were able to get some valuable game experience. And really, isn’t that the point of fall ball anyway?
A few parents took photos of the games. Once I gain access to them, I will post a few.
We will have one more practice on Tuesday, October 30 before heading to Omaha on Sunday, November 4 to face Creighton Prep and Millard West. This pair of games will provide the boys with one more opportunity to get a game in before winter.