Kent Island locks up North Bayside crown
Shutout of Easton nets Bucs’ first division since 2011
KI 3 — Easton 0
STEVENSVILLE — A showdown between two undefeated teams became a showcase for Kent Island High’s soccer skills Thursday evening at Andy Schipul Stadium.
The Buccaneers shot well, passed well, defended well, and basically did everything well in a convincing 3-0 victory to clinch their first North Bayside boys’ soccer title since 2011.
Kent Island midfielder Blake Groves blasted a rightfooter inside the right post for a 3-0 lead in the 50th minute. His goal came after a series of passing and dodging exchanges by both Ryan Knaggs and Andi Mejia on the left wing that ended with Mejia centering to Groves.
Knaggs had opened the game’s scoring midway through the first half with a perfectly-placed, well-struck curving right-footer, from 18-yards out, inside the far post — a shot that Easton goalie Walter Morris had no chance stopping.
“Ryan Knaggs is such a handful to keep a hold of; it’s so difficult to defend him,” said Bucs head coach Lin Outten, whose team improved to 10-0 overall, 7-0 North Bayside.
The game stayed close with Kent Island holding a 1-0 lead at halftime before the Bucs put it away in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Carter Duncan beat Morris to the ball on a fast break created by Groves’ lead pass, and Duncan left-footed a roller into a wide-open cage to put the Bucs ahead 2-0 in the 45th minute. Groves capped the scoring five minutes later.
“Well, it probably was closer than the score. Easton’s a good team,” Outten said. “They played well. People who just saw the score might not think Easton played well, but they played really well.”
After graduating a slew of players from last year’s team, Outten didn’t know what to expect this season.
“It’s funny, you graduate 10 guys and you say, ‘How do you replace those 10 guys, and what’s the team going to look like,’ and then all these guys step up and just play fantastic,” he said.
As good as Kent Island’s attack performed against the three-time defending division champion, its defense was just as good, limiting the Warriors to only a few scoring opportunities. Easton (7-1, 5-1) was able to get the ball into Kent Island’s end of the field, but its passes and drives were cut off by the Bucs’ defense. The Warriors also failed to capitalize on several centering passes into open spaces in the goal area.
“Our back line is so hard to get past, and around, and over, and through,” Outten said. “They do such a great job. The center backs, Dorsey Schulz and Kyle Allewalt, they’re just a dynamite pair in the middle and have been leading us all year. I don’t know if you hear the talk that they’re giving the guys. The direction and leadership from those two guys is so good for our team. But it was great up and down the field, all the positions. I was hoping for our best effort tonight and I’m glad we got it.”
Despite limited action, Kent Island goalie Jackson Davis (two saves) remained aggressive. He left the crease to grab a fine centering pass by Easton’s Carlos Hernandez early in the second half to keep the Bucs in front.
Morris (five saves) was also aggressive. He left the cage in the 5th minute and collided with Groves to break up a scoring opportunity. Groves was injured on the play, but he returned in the 24th minute and controlled much of the midfield play throughout the remainder of the game.
“Him getting hurt worried me in the first half,” Outten said, “because he’s such an important player for us right in the middle. Getting him back on was like a key moment of the game. We played really well getting him back in there. … He’s a kid who didn’t start last year, and he is just playing like dynamite.”
The Bucs finished with 13 shots and six corner kicks compared to six shots and three corners for Easton.
“That Easton team’s really good, and I reminded the guys there’s a good chance we’ll play them again [in the postseason]. They have talented players. They’re well coached,” Outten said.
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Kent Island’s Jaden Kendall (14) fights for possession along with Easton’s Mauro Garniga-Alvarado during the first half Thursday evening at Andy Schipul Stadium.