BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
CEDAR RAPIDS – It was a short-lived affair and the Fort Madison Bloodhound keepers had their hands full as Cedar Rapids Xavier ended the Bloodhounds season 10-0 in Class 2A District soccer Wednesday.
The Hounds had very little time on their end of the pitch at Mt. Mercy University’s Athletic Complex, and were in defensive mode most of the game as the quick Saints regularly moved the ball through the Hounds midfielders and defenders.
Fort Madison was in the match for the first ten minutes deflecting several pushes by the Xavier offense, but once the butterflies were gone, the juggernaut Saints scored regularly swinging the ball smoothly from side to side and then slipping kicks in from the right and left sides and jamming up the box.
With a 2-0 lead in the first half, Cedar Rapids senior Andrija Mijatovic took a midfield kick over his head down the middle seem and brought a Hound defender with him and then fired the ball past a lonely Brody Rung who had stepped up in the box to cut off the angle with 19:01 left in the first half.
Fort Madison would hold the lead at 3-0 for the next 15 minutes, but a the 4:02 mark, junior Nicholas Fischer scooted one past Rung as chaos ensued in the box making it difficult for Rung to see the ball.
The Saints pushed up again, with Fort Madison’s only chance at play being to just keep trying to clear the ball with senior Justin Bowker playing back most of the game trying to keep the ball out of the box with the faster Saints seemingly all over the field..
“There’s a difference between fast and quick,” Fort Madison Head Coach Kevin Wellman said. “If two people are 10 yards away and they do a 50/50 ball and the ball squirts out in a direction, the Xavier player is going off his start to get there a step in front of us and that was a big deal because we couldn’t start with possession and the get any continuance.”
With Xavier pushing again, Mijatovic fired another shot high and right, but Rung was able to leap up running and make a save to preserve a 4-0 lead and keep the game manageable….for the moment.
At halftime, Wellman said he told the guys at halftime, they didn’t do anything wrong, we just didn’t do it as quick as they did.
“I was happy with what the guys did, but the scoreboard just doesn’t show that.”
The Saints jumped all over new goalie Javier Trejo in the second half, with Mijatovic scoring again up the middle of a swing pass that came in from the left side for a 5-0 lead.
Just 1:55 later the game was moving much faster and Xavier took a corner kick from the right side of the field and shot it over the scrum in the box, the flank side offense took the ball and brought it back into the middle and fired a shot that Trejo blocked on a dive, but Fischer was there to clean it up for a 6-0 lead.
The next goal came :40 seconds later when Fischer scored again on an assist in from the right side again to the middle where Fischer was able to find a the loose ball and gap and put the ball in the left side for a 7-0 lead.
Fort Madison would only get the ball on their side of the field about five times in the half, mostly on clears or long kicks to start points after goals.
The Saints went up 8-0 at the 27:20 mark on a shot by freshman Connor Lenss and scored two more goals in less than three minutes to set the 10-goal mercy rule.
Wellman said the program has been in somewhat of a reboot since 2016 when he lost 10 of 11 starters and said things are coming along nicely and the Hounds had a winning season this year at 10-9.
“We dropped off considerably the next year which is to be expected. These seniors were freshman in 2016, they were along for the ride and got some minutes here and there, and then there was a big burden to shoulder as sophomores to keep things going,” Wellman said.
“This year we dropped some games we shouldn’t have, specifically the Central Lee and we had some trouble with how we were going to respond to that.”
At that point the Hounds were 3-6 on the year and five of the games they lost, they lost by one or two goals.
“If those games go the other way we’re 15-4 this year,” Wellman said.
Rung suffered an injury in the first half when a Saint slid into the box and Rung had come out to try and scoop up the ball in the box and the two collided. He took some treatment over halftime, but only could a few minutes in the second half.
The loss snaps a three-game winning streak where the Hounds outscored their opponents 8-1.