Midfield maestro

Scanlon nets five as EJ’s playoff push continues

Posted 5/6/22

Beckoned by the home crowd and full of jubilation, the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer team was fired up after crushing the Cascade Christian Cougars in a critical Nisqually League …

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Midfield maestro

Scanlon nets five as EJ’s playoff push continues


Beckoned by the home crowd and full of jubilation, the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer team was fired up after crushing the Cascade Christian Cougars in a critical Nisqually League matchup.
“When you play that way, the results speak for themselves,” Rivals Head Coach Robert Cantley said after a domineering victory over the Cougars last week.
Putting on a performance for the ages, midfield hotshot Connor Scanlon shredded the Cascade Christian’s defense to net five goals and lead the Rivals to a comfortable 6-2 win at home.
“That’s the kind of performance I’ve been looking for from him all season; to take command of the game and really assert himself in it,” Cantley said of Scanlon’s scoring surge. “I feel like that’s a leader’s performance; he’s one of our more experienced players.”
After a rough loss at home the previous Saturday, EJ returned to Port Townsend’s Memorial Stadium on April 26 looking for vengeance.
The Cougars pressured the Rivals from the jump with multiple fast breaks and scoring chances. EJ keeper Haven McMillen’s first touch came within 30 seconds of the opening whistle, as he saved a Cougar shot from outside the penalty box.
Cascade Christian continued to batter the Rivals backfield with multiple shots and headers from corner kicks, but the back line and McMillen held steady.
Finding their footing after Cascade Christian’s initial attack, EJ pressed into the Cougars’ half. Eight minutes into the match, Mark Anderson slid a great pass to Lochlan Krupa downfield. Krupa sliced a shot on goal, but the Cougar keeper saved it to keep the game level.
Minutes later, Krupa collected the ball and aimed a through ball for Scanlon, who dribbled past the defense for a breakaway shot.
Cool, calm, and collected, the midfield maestro targeted a low shot past the keeper to put the Rivals up 1-0 after eight minutes of play.
The Cougars retaliated immediately with a dangerous counterattack down the right sideline. The opponents slipped past EJ’s backfield and ripped a strike past McMillen’s left glove for the equalizer minutes after the Rivals took the lead.
The scoring chances continued for EJ’s opponents as they crowded the Rivals penalty box for a chance at goal. EJ defender Sean Botkin kept the Cougars out with a clutch clearance to relieve his backfield.
EJ upped the aggression, looking to take their advantage back.
After some tricky passing between Anderson, Taj Watson, Scanlon, and Krupa, the Rivals earned a free kick outside Cascade Christian’s penalty box. Barlow took the kick and curled a lofty cross into the box, which Scanlon connected with.
A chaotic scramble in the box led to three shots from Scanlon in rapid succession, with the third drifting past the Cougars’ keeper to put EJ back on top, 2-1.
The Rivals’ confidence continued to grow as the game went on. Bolstered by their dependable back line and McMillen, EJ’s midfield was darting passes through Cougar defenders with ease.
About midway through the opening half, EJ gained a tempting chance at goal after Krupa, Anderson, Gary Zambor, and Scanlon’s build-up passing.
Barlow found space from the left and cut into Cascade Christian’s penalty box after a wicked, ankle-breaking juke that sent a Cougar player straight to the dirt. Barlow’s cross was on target and the Rivals attempted to find a clean shot on goal, but to no avail.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Scanlon’s red-hot form continued as he plucked a loose ball from an EJ cross, guiding it into the net for an astonishing hat trick after only 30 minutes of play.
Walking toward the locker rooms for halftime, the Rivals were welcomed with a chorus of cheers and applause from parents, friends, and fans amid a commanding 3-1 lead.
Starting off the second half, Zambor found an opening in the opponent’s defense and ripped a shot on goal, but it was just off target.
Anderson put the pressure on Cascade Christian’s backfield, eventually stealing the ball from a negligent defender and moving toward the Cougar keeper for a shot 15 minutes into the second half.
Approaching the net from the left corner, it was an awkward angle for Anderson to score from, but he launched a perfectly-placed shot right past the keeper’s outstretched gloves to bring the score to 4-1.
EJ looked unstoppable but they weren’t done yet as Watson lofted a through ball to Scanlon minutes later, leading the midfielder on a fast-break from midfield.
Making it look easy, Scanlon laced a shot into the goal for his fourth goal of the game and a 5-1 advantage over the Cougars with 25 minutes remaining.
Channeling his inner Messi, Scanlon booted another goal from a breakaway run to put the score at 6-1 and finish with an incredible five goals with time to spare.
The Cougars scored a consolation goal in extra time, but it was all EJ at the final whistle as they celebrated the 6-2 home victory.
“That was a great result. I think it was a little bit more than I expected,” Cantley said.
“I was expecting more of a tight game and it felt like it was in the first half, and in the second we really turned it on,” the coach said.
Aided by an unstoppable scoring spree from Scanlon, the Rivals showed their true potential as a team to contend with in the Nisqually League.
“It felt like the other team was making mistakes and we were capitalizing on them. It’s a big turnaround from some of our other results we’ve had previously, where we’ve got opportunities to score but we just don’t take them,” Cantley said.
Although the big win was a weight off the shoulders for Cantley and his team, the coach reiterated that a difficult path ahead to the playoffs remains.
“We have to win two of our [next] three games at least to stay in with a shout,” he said. “This is a good reminder that we have the quality to do it.”


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