116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES – Jacob Connolly got to know Mount Vernon senior Seth Russell pretty well Thursday afternoon.
'Great guy,' the Norwalk defender said of Russell. 'I was talking to him the whole game.'
Top-ranked Norwalk (16-3) always had a marker on the Mustangs' holding midfielder and was quick and direct in attack in a 6-0 Class 2A boys' state soccer quarterfinal victory.
'Our coach told us to focus on him and take him out of the game,' Connelly said. 'If we take him out of the game, we win.'
Russell's shot from distance crept over the bar in the early going, but the 6-6 center back Connelly was strong and confident the rest of the way, along with his defensive teammates.
The Warriors struck for three goals in each half and advanced to Friday's semifinal against Hudson.
Jack Palen produced a hat trick, opening the scoring with a header in the eighth minute, then stamping out any Mount Vernon hopes of a comeback with two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Other than a Keegan Leaper penalty that he won and scored in the 25th minute, Norwalk's goals were well-worked with centering passes or lay-offs.
'They're just skilled at all positions,' Mount Vernon coach Kevin Murray said. 'We kind of respected our opponent a little bit too much today. We played back, there was too much of a gap between our midfield and defense and that gave them a lot of space.'
Kasey Leaper netted in the 20th minute on a volley and Brady Mooers capped the scoring after intricate passes from Reid Kallenbach and Kasey Leaper at the hour mark.
'They pass the ball well,' Russell said. 'They have good communication and they're a well-rounded team.'
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The mood was still light on the Mustangs' (12-6) sideline after the game, with players dousing each other with water on a hot afternoon.
This team is the first from the school to get this far, boys or girls, and that wasn't lost on them despite a disappointing result. The senior class left its mark.
'Oh yeah,' Russell agreed. 'One of the better seasons at Mount Vernon.'
The key now is to build off it.
'I've got some kids in our youth programs that are getting excited about soccer now,' Murray said. 'We're hoping to build our youth program and keep some stability there.'
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