Photo by Bill Roseberry
EA-WR junior midfielder Jordan Schmidgall splits a pair of Valmeyer defenders in the Oilers’ home-opening 4-1 win Monday. The Oilers are looking to build on a 2014 campaign when they won the program’s first regional title.
East Alton-Wood River boys’ soccer head coach Mike Lawson has a long-term plan — building a program with annual success.
Lawson has definitely laid the foundation for his goal. After going 17-3-1 in 2013, the Oilers were 12-8 in 2014 and secured the first regional championship in program history. After Monday’s home-opening 4-1 win over Valmeyer, EA-WR was sitting at 5-2-1 and has started another successful campaign.
“I’d say the last couple of years with 29 wins are fantastic,” Lawson said. “We’re on a similar road this year. We’re definitely strong up the middle and those are the returners and then with the small 1A schools you look to just fill pieces in and that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Entering Tuesday, the Oilers had outscored their opponents 23-6 and the only blemishes were a 2-2 tie with Breese Central Aug. 27, a 4-0 loss to Jersey in the Carlinville Tournament Aug. 31 and 4-2 loss at Freeburg Sept. 9. EA-WR took third in Carlinville after falling to the Panthers in the semifinals.
The season still has some obstacles in store with Jersey at home at 10 a.m. Saturday, Freeburg at home Oct. 5 and Marquette Catholic at home Oct. 7.
“Those are the games where you kind of do a gut check as to where you are heading into the regionals,” Lawson said. “I think we should have a pretty good run over the next 10 or 15 games into the year and it will be interesting to see who they pair us up in the regionals with Columbia and Marquette being 2A schools now. We may have another opportunity like last year.”
Junior midfielder Jordan Schmidgall believes the success of the last two seasons has given him and his teammates the confidence and experience to excel on the season.
“Winning the regional (last year) was such a big high,” Schmidgall said. “Everybody was real excited to just play soccer because normally the East Alton-Wood River soccer team isn’t known for going out there and winning a lot of games. Winning the regional gave everybody a big confidence boost.”
There is a lot of talent and experience on the Oilers in the midfield and up top. Schmidgall has logged two goals on the season, while fellow midfielder-defenseman Josh Turner, a senior, leads the offensive attack with five goals.
Throw in junior midfielder-forward Zac Lafferty (four goals, four assists), senior midfielder-forward David Barrett (three goals, one assist), junior forward-midfielder Luke Sims (two goals, five assists) and senior defenseman Cameron Foust (one goal) and there are some potent contributors.
“Luke Sims is back,” Lawson said. “I think he had eight goals in five games last year and then had to go away because he had other stuff going in his life. We missed him. Josh Turner is just this little left-footed boy, but he’s so good with the ball at his feet, and really that’s a strength. You’ve got David (Barrett) with his raw power up top, Zac Lafferty is another kid. Maybe he’s not the overall player like some of the other boys, but he’s always in the right spot and he can run all day. They’re just soccer smart.”
EA-WR also has talented senior goalie Nick Barrett.
“Our keeper, to where he was as a freshman to playing year round the last three years, he’s as good of a keeper as we’ll play and I would think one of the top ones around here,” Lawson said. “I know there are some really strong ones, but he is tactically and technique brilliant when it comes to playing goal.”
Even with all that experience, confidence and soccer savviness, Schmidgall said the Oilers can improve their game to take the next step.
And that next step is winning a sectional soccer game on penalty kicks. They lost to Freeburg in PKs in sectional action in ‘14.
“We need to make more little sharp passes, work more as a team, communicate more and we’ve got to come out here and bust our butts at soccer at practice,” Schmidgall said. “We’ve just got to play better as a team.”
Follow #ADVsports on Twitter