As Westlake junior Dillon Kruger’s ninth-minute shot reached the back of the net, his eyes were closed. That goal, that came in the Demons’ Division I Sectional semifinal on Oct. 16, gave his team an early 2-0 lead over Midview.
Just four minutes earlier, the junior scored his first goal of the game an break the scoreless tie. On that second shot, he was simply trying to place the ball on the net when he had an opportunity, whether he could see where he was shooting or not.
After the Demons, seeded seventh in the Elyria District, defeated the No. 10 Middies 5-1 amid howling winds and spurts of rain that blew sideways at times, all they could see in front of them was a looming matchup with No. 2 Strongsville in Saturday’s Sectional final.
“I saw the ball in the air, and I was like, yeah, I’ve got it,” Kruger said. “I kind of closed my eyes before I headed it and when I opened them it was in the net.”
Westlake (6-8-3) moves on to play the Mustangs (11-3-2) for the second time this season. On Sept. 7 the Mustangs, who finished runners-up to defending Div. I State champion Medina in the Greater Cleveland Conference, shut out the Demons 4-0.
After dispatching the Middies (3-14), the Demons had revenge on their minds even though they knew a tough matchup was ahead.
“(Strongsville’s) going to play hard,” Kruger said. “We played them earlier in the year and they beat us, but we’ve got to get payback on them because we don’t want that taste in our mouth. What they did to us, we won’t forget.”
The Demons outshot Midview 21-8 (8-4 on goal) and took a 3-0 lead into halftime. After Kruger’s two goals in the first 10 minutes of play, it took until the 36th for freshman Justin Shreffler to increase the lead. In the 46th, junior Sam Salem headed a ball past Midview keeper Andrew Fitzgerald (three saves) for a 4-0 advantage.
“(Midview) made some mistakes, and we capitalized,” Demons coach Mike Besu said. “And it became easier (to play our game) when we had a three or four (goal) lead.”
Westlake controlled possession for much of the game until Midview freshman Mason Kucera scored on a header of his own in the 50th. The Demons were able to hang on the rest of the way, with senior Matthew Brizes adding an insurance goal in the 79th to help preserve the win.
Senior goalie Levi Swisher made three saves for Westlake, which beat a youthful Midview team for the second time this month, including a 3-1 win in Grafton Oct. 5.
“(Westlake’s) got the experience of a program that’s been there,” Middies coach James Igneczi said. “We’re still trying to put together a program. …We put together a style of play this year for the first time, and it’s still a work in progress, obviously. But it’s just the experience of a program that’s been there and done that, and we haven’t been there and we haven’t done that yet.”
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