In Chris Crawford’s first year at the helm of the Saxony Lutheran boys soccer team, the Crusaders were able to capture their fifth-straight Class 1 District 1 Championship last week.
No. 1 seed Saxony (7-8-1) did so by shutting out No. 2 McKinley Classical Leadership (10-6) 4-0 as senior Trevor Ochs scored a game-high two goals. Ochs currently leads the Crusaders in goals with 11 and is tied for first in assists with five.
“McKinley is an extremely improved team from what they have been in the past,” Crawford said. “They have some players that are going to be a real force to be reckoned with the next couple of years. I think we looked a little shaky at first — there were a little bit of nerves.
“We settled into the game and dominated the midfield, which is really what we had to do to be able to beat a team like them.”
Fellow senior Micah Mirly added another goal for Saxony and also came up with two assists while sophomore Paul Adams scored a goal of his own.
“[Winning districts five years in a row] is pretty big — at the beginning of the year that was one of our goals was to continue that streak,” Coach Crawford said. “For me personally, I couldn’t do it without my players. I was just there guiding them along, so I’m just really happy for the players that they were able to keep it going.”
Coach Crawford said his players felt the pressure of keeping the district title streak going throughout the season.
Scoring wise, Saxony has been pretty spread out this season as Mirly is behind Ochs with seven goals and fellow senior Zach Meyr in third at five.
Adams and sophomore Quinn Steffens are tied for fourth with three apiece as sophomore D.J. Dreyer, junior Mason Dunn and junior Ty Miller are all tied at two.
“We graduated two players from last year that were 30-plus goal scorers, and so in that sense you aren’t going to replace that with one person,” Crawford said. “I told them at the beginning of the year, ‘This is going to be a team that has to play as a team and the scoring is not going to be from one guy.’”
Crawford feels that his spread scoring makes his team a dangerous one to prepare for since defenders are not able to just focus on one or two players.
Heading into the Class 1 Quarterfinal Saturday against Principia (8-7) at home, Crawford said his team is where they want to be.
“From the very beginning of the year at the very first practice I can remember thinking, ‘Man, we have a ton of work to do,’” Coach Crawford said. “We graduated a ton of players, and we had some things fundamentally that we were behind on. Our schedule is set up to where we play Jackson, Perryville and Notre Dame right off the get-go, so there are teams that are going to expose you when you have those deficiencies.”
Another reason was that many of these players happen to be first-year starters who also haven’t seen much playing time on the varsity level until now.
One player in particular is senior Christopher Palmer, who is actually playing soccer for the first time ever. Palmer is Saxony’s goalkeeper and has recorded a total of six shutouts and 78 saves while allowing 17 goals.
“In our back line we start two seniors, who have been starters all four years,” Crawford said. “Then we have Garrett Richey, who is an extremely experienced player and we’ve been starting Zander Zieba. [Palmer] is a big, long athletic kid, and the other thing is he’s extremely smart. He picked up the game super fast, and he’s just been unbelievable back there for us.”
The Crusaders are only one game away from returning to the Class 1 Final Four in Fenton, where they took fourth place a year ago.