CEDAR RAPIDS — The swarms were relentless Wednesday night at John Wall Field.
Gnats surrounded fans and coaches. Cedar Rapids Prairie’s attack blitzed Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s back line. There was little relief.
Prairie scored three goals in less than two minutes early in the second half and beat Jefferson 4-0 for the second time this season in a Class 3A boys’ soccer substate semifinal. The second-ranked Hawks (13-1) will host Cedar Falls (11-7) at 9 a.m. Saturday with a trip to state on the line.
“We don’t have one guy,” Prairie Coach Curt Lewis said. “We have four guys you have to try to defend. It’s easy as a team to defend one guy and hope that guy has a bad game. Any given game one of those guys can have a good game.”
Lewis wasn’t even completely sure who scored Wednesday without looking at the stats. As was Prairie’s plan, positions were interchangeable and goals came quickly.
Andrew Russell scored bookend goals, Caleb Halleran put in a header and Mateaus Lewis’ pressure forced an own goal he was happy to take credit for when the PA announcer assigned it.
“Once we got that second one, we knew their heads were going to go down and we needed to step it up one more notch, which we did and it allowed us to get those two more goals and put the game away,” Prairie midfielder Matt Walter said.
Last year’s team that was undefeated before a state quarterfinal loss was led by Walter’s 16 goals. But he’s been moved to midfielder this year with Mateaus Lewis up top to take advantage of Lewis’ hold-up play and Walter’s combination of speed and distribution.
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Don’t mistake that switch for Walter having less of a role in the offense. His aggressive challenge for a Boston Riley throw-in in the box led to an open net for Halleran’s header in the 50th minute. Seconds after the own goal, Walter hit a through-ball that Russell latched onto for his brace.
These guys were all successful varsity contributors as underclassmen. That gave Curt Lewis confidence to tinker with roles to find the best setup.
“We’re so veteran,” Lewis said. “We’ve seen everything. Now it’s just a matter of using all those things we’ve learned and just not panicking.”
“The experience is huge this year and we’re very deep at a lot of different positions, which is great,” Walter said. “We’ve just got to get out there and execute on the field. If we do that, no one can stop us.”
Jefferson, which had won six of eight coming in, ends the season 7-10.
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