WIAA boys soccer: Caleb Blair’s two early strikes carry McFarland to state
MOUNT HOREB — It was their last chance. The final opportunity for McFarland senior Caleb Blair and his five senior teammates.
So, Blair figured, why mess around?
The Spartans’ captain scored twice in the game’s first 16 minutes Saturday afternoon and led McFarland the rest of the way to a 3-1 victory over Madison Edgewood in a WIAA Division 3 boys soccer sectional final.
After his Spartans lost in the sectional each of his first three years — including sectional-final losses to Mount Horeb each of the past two years — Blair wore a grin as wide as the goal mouth as he reflected on just how much better Saturday’s outcome felt.
“McFarland has lost this game a couple times in the past. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to happen again,” Blair said.
“It wasn’t in our game plan to attack early like that, but our goal always is to jump out to a hot start,” Blair said. “Especially in a big game like this.”
McFarland (17-4-0) will take a five-game winning streak to Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee for a Division 3 semifinal at either 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. It’s only the second state trip in school history for the Spartans; the first game in 2013, when Blair was a seventh-grader.
Edgewood (10-6-4) saw a 10-game unbeaten streak come to an end and missed out on its first state trip since 2009.
“We’ve been fortunate lately to come out real hard and strong,” McFarland coach Brett Ogrozalek said. “That was a huge advantage. It helped us a ton. We were really able to settle in after that.”
Blair’s first goal came when freshman Zach Nichols brought the ball up the left side and sent a pass into the left corner for junior Ethan Nichols. Next came a long crossing pass to the far side of the goal, and Blair knocked it in just 3 minutes, 52 seconds into the game.
Blair’s other goal came on a set piece from junior Ian Loss. He placed the ball right in front of the goal, and Blair scored with a header at 15:43.
Edgewood — with a physically stronger and lankier group of players — made a valiant effort to turn the momentum around. Joseph Illgen made a beautiful play on a corner kick from Andy O’Connor in the 26th minute, using his head to direct the ball into the far corner of the goal.
“We continued to play. We didn’t get distracted by the scoreboard,” Edgewood coach Chris Martinelli said. “Some teams might start to get tight after that, but we got stronger out of it.”
But in the 54th minute, McFarland junior Ethan Nichol weaved the ball past Edgewood defenders on a long run up the middle, and then sent a pass to junior Vince Seils, who sent the ball past Edgewood goalkeeper Sean O’Connor for an insurance goal.
“You can see we’ve got some really skilled players, but I’ve had skilled players before,” Ogrozalek said. “What makes the difference for this team is our mental approach. We could be up by one or down by one, and it’s always 100 percent intensity.”