West Valley Preps
On paper, it was a showdown for the Region 4 lead. On the pitch it was a mismatch, and the region leader was on the short end.
Northwest Christian relentlessly stormed the Glendale Prep zone Friday afternoon, and the imbalance only became more pronounced when the visiting Griffins lost their goalkeeper and fastest defender to first-half injuries.
Sophomore striker Michael Huss led the barrage, with three of the first four goals in a 8-0 Crusaders rout
“The game against Glendale Prep was a good one. Unfortunately they were down a few players and had a couple more get injured during play,” Northwest Christian coach Jeremy Witt said. “We have had a good season so far with a couple games lately that challenged the boys and made them dig a little deeper. We are hoping that that will transfer over to the post season and they will respond to the challenges of playing the top teams in 1A-3A.”
Glendale Prep (7-3-2 overall, 2-1 region) has been successful with a small roster. But bringing 13 players into a big game is difficult enough, particularly when two injuries completely wipe out a bench.
And when those injuries occur to standout senior goalkeeper Omair Neazi and reliable junior fullback Aaron Webdale, the holes are too large to cover.
Neazi was cut in the first five minutes and had to leave to get stitches. The next-best keeper on the team is junior Ian Martell, one of the Griffiths’ top scoring threats.
Webdale’s day ended in the 40th minute as Crusaders senior Kody DeHart quickly turned and shot the ball from long range. The blast went off the face of the nearby Webdale, and while a concussion test revealed no issue, he was left with a shiner and out for the second half.
“Our goalie suffered a minor concussion and is going to need a couple stitches. We moved in one of our backup goalies Ian Martell, who is probably one of our best strikers. Then I lost my fastest center back to a hard shot to the eye with the ball. He got cleared from concussion protocol,” Glendale Prep coach Jaime Canedo said.
Northwest Christian (9-3-1, 2-0-1) built its 3-0 halftime advantage on two Huss goals, sandwiched around a score by senior Zach Heater.
Facing an opponent with no substitutes remaining, the Crusaders camped in the Griffins’ penalty area for most of the second half.
Huss started the half with his hat trick. DeHart, freshman Tyler Grimalausko, sophomore Weston Lander and sophomore Jaden Faulkner all added goals as Witt emptied his bench in the final 15 minutes.
“Michael is developing into a great goal scorer. He has gained some size since last year and his footwork has improved as well. He has been very hungry this year to score goals but also has been able to assist on many,” Witt said. “We are looking forward to him to continue to mature and develop his skills. He is a very funny kid and makes everybody laugh on the team, which we all really need sometimes.”
After the game, Glendale Prep remained at #19 in the 3A standings. In the other conferences, the Griffins would be preparing for a play-in game.
But 3A only takes the top 16, so Canedo’s team needs to beat Goodyear Trivium Prep Wednesday and hope for some help.
“I’ve got to give them a lot of credit because we’ve had no depth — basically an average of two subs. We’ve managed to have a winning record,” Canedo said. “If we beat Trivium there is a slight chance. If we can sneak in the playoffs, that’s what we’re praying for.”
Conversely, Northwest Christian remains #6 in 3A and knows it is in the bracket and most likely hosting a first round game Jan. 31.
The Crusaders beat Paradise Honors 4-0 Monday night to move to 9-0-1 in the regular season and 10-3-1 overall. They were looking at a busy final week, but but ASU Prep cancelled its season, so Wednesday’s game is off and only Anthem Prep remains Thursday.
“We hope that we and finish strong with confidence going into the post. We have a young team and we are looking to the few upper class guys to step up and lead us into the playoffs and show us what they are capable of as a team,” Witt said.