Jamie sparks Blackhawks heading into regional play Thursday
Fort Atkinson needed a spark.
After winning its first game of the season, 3-0, against Burlington, the offense had been shut out five times and only scored one goal in all of its other three games.
The defense held up its end of the bargain as the team never lost by more than two goals, but the team’s struggle to score had them with a 1-6-2 record.
“I’m a coach that believes you win first with defense and then you just try to find ways to score,” head coach Kent Lovejoy said. “But we couldn’t find ways to score.”
Lovejoy decided to move his best defender, senior Evan Jaime, up to midfield to help facilitate more offense. Since moving Jaime up to midfield, the Blackhawks have gone 5-2-1.
The offense has improved, the defense has felt pressure alleviated because it can advance the ball up to Jaime to start an offensive push, but Jaime still doesn’t consider himself a major scoring threat.
“I don’t really consider myself a scorer. I’ve always been a passer,” Jaime said. “Passing and getting assists is something that I’ve always practiced. I don’t really practice shooting that much.”
As Fort Atkinson prepares for a first-round playoff game at Baraboo on Thursday, Jaime’s ability to help create offense will be key.
It’s already been a major improvement for the offense. His passing provides the Blackhawks with more opportunities to score and the vision that he has developed from the vantage point of a defender watching offensive players helped him understand how to move the ball whenever he had the opportunity to run the offense.
“I like to think I’m pretty good at seeing the field,” Jaime said. “When I play on defense, I could always see more of the field. When I moved up, I can make more passes and give ourselves opportunities to score because I can see where the ball needs to go.”
It also helps that Jaime has athleticism to go with vision.
“He has some God-given athletic ability,” Lovejoy said. “He’s crazy fast. He never looks like he’s playing hard or running hard, but he’s always pulling away from people and never getting caught from behind.”
With Jaime in the offensive mix, there have been ripple effects throughout the lineup.
Javier Meza moved from the middle of the attack to the outside where he had five assists in three games. Freshmen Noah Kontny and Landon Zorn moved up into the varsity lineup as strikers to give the Blackhawks more speed and increased scoring potential.
“They’ve played a lot more soccer than most of the guys out here,” Lovejoy said. “They both understand how the game is played and they’ve had some really good coaching to this point in their careers. It’s a wonderful thing between the two of them.”
“(They) have really well developed skills,” Jaime said. “They’ve been practicing a lot and they give us a better opportunity to score.”
Ashton Hansell moved from midfield back to the center back position vacated by Jaime.
“He’s more aggressive and plays a little bit differently than Evan, so it took a little bit of time,” defender Garrett Rieger said. “It has worked, though. It actually has kind of helped us because we can pass the ball up to him and he’ll take care of it — we know it isn’t coming right back at us.”
As a defender, Jaime was a defuser: he would see a threat mounting and find a way to alleviate the pressure carefully.
As a midfielder, he still is the chief defuser on the field.
“He was always making the right plays,” Rieger said. “It was a little weird not having him back there with me. I felt like it put more pressure on us because we didn’t have him.
“It’s nice just to watch when he is creating offense and advancing the ball up the field whether he’s passing the ball and getting open or carrying it up the field himself.”