Covenant and North Cross came into Wednesday evening’s game matched up as the top two teams at the VISAA Division 2 level. The Eagles dominated the first half possession but had nothing to show for it at the break. In the second, Covenant again was the aggressor. This time though, the Eagles walked away with trio of goals in just over four minutes to run away with a 3-0 victory and firmly entrench themselves as the top team in the state.
“We had a lot of great chances in the first half and so it was frustrating not to be able to finish but we just talked about keeping that intensity up but sharpening up the decision making and the attacking third has to be faster, more creative and more dangerous,” said Covenant coach Bryan Verbugge. “They were. And the guys were excited about the possibility of staying home for the playoffs. If we can win out, hopefully that means we’ll be at home for the playoffs. It’s been a while since we haven’t had to travel a long way in the playoffs.”
Before the scoring blitz in the second half, there were no shortage of chances. The Eagles saw a beautiful cross from Michael Seelman get headed just wide in the first ten minutes. Josiah McCaskill uncorked a heavy shot five minutes later that went wide. Then it was North Cross goalkeeper Zaid Fada’s turn to frustrate as he came up with a save on Soren Scott off a corner, a great play on a loose ball with McKean Knowlton just inches away from an easy goal and then a truly amazing diving one-handed stop while on his back on a shot from Scott again.
With the Raiders getting a pair of bookend corners and just one shot from Nelson Etuk that went high, it was largely one-sided half with North Cross sagging back on defense and waiting for a moment to pounce that just did not show itself outside of Etuk’s breakaway. That said, it was still 0-0 at the break.
The Eagles blew the doors off the game early in the second half with a perfect pass from Scott to McCaskill who roofed a shot with 35:50 on the clock.
“The hardest thing to teach is anticipation we’ve been working a lot quick touches and movement and to see the play develop like that from where I was standing — I got to watch the play develop from the start — it was just exciting to be a part of a team that’s working hard like that to make plays like that,” Verbugge said.
Two minutes later Covenant was awarded a penalty kick and McCaskill sent it low and into the right corner of the net to make it 2-0. Nearly two minutes later it was T.J. Tyler cleaning up a ball in front of the net. Just like that with 31:09, the game was all but over.
“We got a lot of confidence after the PK,” McCaskill said. “We kept the intensity up and we were focused on them not getting a goal after that. We wanted a clean sheet and we wound up getting that third goal, but it was really about keeping that intensity up and making sure this ended in a shutout.”
Covenant continued to apply pressure the rest of the second half and while Etuk threatened on a pair of shots, Will Maupin and defense were able to preserve the shutout.
“We just have to keep staying healthy and humble and continue to work hard,” Verbugge said. “The first thing you lose with humility is your work ethic and we’re always preaching that humility also gives you accurate self perception. So we’ll just keep working, stay humble and hope to stay healthy and see where that takes us.”
Covenant (10-1-1) faces the third ranked team in VISAA D2, Carlisle, on the road on Friday at 4:30 p.m.