SCH junior Tim Booth (left) and Hun School’s James Nicholas each try to rein in a ball headed toward the sideline. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

SCH junior Tim Booth (left) and Hun School’s James Nicholas each try to rein in a ball headed toward the sideline. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Host Springside Chestnut Hill Academy controlled the soccer ball the majority of the time in both halves of last Thursday’s home field match, but the Blue Devils were definitely more productive in the second period. In the first 40 minutes, SCH could not add to a lone goal scored by freshman Michael Buck at the very beginning of the contest. Although they had created many offensive openings against visiting Hun School, the Devils were just a fluke away from a tie game at the intermission, up 1-0.

When play resumed, the hosts found the formula for finishing these scoring plays, with four different players penetrating the Warriors’ stronghold for a 5-0 victory.

The shutout was recorded by junior Sam McDowell, a third-year starter in goal for Springside Chestnut Hill. The Blue Devils, who won’t open play in the Inter-Ac League until October 7, raised their record against early non-league opponents to 5-1-1.

It was only the third official outing for Hun School this fall. The Warriors arrived at SCH with a 2-0 mark that included a 2-1 win against Inter-Ac League member Episcopal Academy.

Springside Chestnut Hill secured the goal that proved to be the game-winner just one minute and 19 seconds into the match. From out near the right corner, Buck sent a well-aimed cross to the mouth of the goal. It was so well-aimed, in fact, that it caught the inside of the far post and caromed into the net. The Blue Devils soon earned a true corner kick, and junior Blake Greenhalgh hit the right post with a shot.

After a brief offensive sortie by the visitors, SCH was back on the attack. The hosts almost connected for a scoring header on another corner, then senior Christian Williams fired a hard shot into the gut of Warriors keeper Logan Leppo. Another SCH attempt buried the ball in the netting outside of the right post, then Leppo leapt to bat away a shot at the upper left corner.

It went this way for much of the remainder of the half. Hun had a chance from the middle of the SCH penalty area, but Jacob Keller volleyed the ball a bit wide to the right. With the Devils up on offense late in the period, the ball bounced tantalizingly across the front of the cage, but Hun defender Alex Semler cleared it away near the left post.

Despite dominating play for almost the entire opening half, the home team hadn’t put many points on the board.

SCH head coach Joe DiSalvo wasn’t seriously concerned.

“We just told the guys to execute, stay patient, and don’t force things,” he said later. “We had a similar game against Pennington (a good New Jersey team that the Devils defeated 4-2). In that game, we were actually down one, then we scored three goals in 15 minutes. Today, once we got our second one everyone calmed down and everything started to come a little easier after that.”

As the second half dawned the play ranged back and forth, with Hun displaying a little more verve than in the first period. This initial phase lasted five or six minutes, then Springside Chestnut Hill attacked steadily. Seven minutes in, the visitors’ Leppo made a fingertip save on a shot near the crossbar by SCH senior José Contreras, and less than a minute later Williams gave the Devils their long-awaited insurance goal.

Although Williams, Greenhalgh, and junior Henry Kelly each had near misses for the leaders in the stretch that followed, things didn’t really get out of hand for Hun until the final quarter of play. With a little under 19 minutes left, Contreras received the ball in the middle of the box about 15 yards out, then turned and punched a shot past Leppo on the keeper’s right.

Five minutes later, SCH came upfield in transition, with sophomore Malcolm Glendinning carrying the ball along the right wing and Kelly filling the lane in the middle. Glendinning took the ball in through the right side of the box until Hun had to play him, then passed across the goal to set up a strike by Kelly just before the ball reached the left post.

The Devils used their short game for a fifth goal with under nine minutes to go. With a group of players from both schools in the penalty area, a deft pass from senior Sam Grasso found freshman Tague Harmaty, who capped off the day’s scoring.

This successful sequence involving a senior and a freshman was an example of how well the young players on the team have blended in with their elders, filling the gaps left by athletes who graduated off last year’s squad.

“We had a lot of younger players last year who maybe didn’t start, but who got to play a lot of minutes with a good team,” DiSalvo said. “This year those guys were ready to take on a bigger role and make an impact, and we have some freshman who were able to step right in.

“Blake Greenhalgh, Henry Kelly and [junior] Harrison Kapp have all helped us up front,” the coach continued, and [sophomore] Jack Lamb has been playing great in the center of the park. Andy Stackhouse [another 10th-grader] has been having a good year, too, although he was hurt today.”

DiSalvo also indicated that the performance of the defense has been a pleasant surprise, mentioning senior Michael Bown and juniors Billy Harris and Tim Booth in particular.

“Those three guys answered my biggest question coming into the season, which was how are we going to put together a back line,” the SCH skipper said. “We gave up some goals the first couple weeks, but now we’re starting to string some shutouts together.”

Williams has been the leader of offense, scoring his 11th goal of the season in the Hun School game. The Blue Devils deposited a total of 27 goals in the first seven games of their 2014 campaign.