Lakers end season in tough 3-1 defeat

Camdenton senior goalkeeper Nolan Moriearty and the Lakers held on as long as they could in a Class 3 District 9 bout with Helias Catholic Monday night.

Camdenton was outshot 34 to four by the visitors in the opening round district game, but Moriearty put up an eye-opening 29 saves to keep his team in it. Unfortunately for the Lakers, a few shots managed to find the back of the net and the season ended with a 3-1 loss to the Crusaders.

It was scoreless through the first 38 minutes of the contest, but Helias forward Nick Brandt managed to squeak by a pair of Laker defenders just before halftime and placed a 10-yard strike on frame to put his team up 1-0. Brandt went on to score twice more in the second half to complete a hat trick.

“They are a tough team. Our game plan was to get eight guys behind the ball,” said Camdenton coach Mike Gow after the Lakers fell to Helias 9-0 in the season opener in August. “I knew they were going to outshoot us with the game plan we had in there and I felt confident we could stop the long shots and we did.

“We gave up that goal late with two minutes to go in the first half on a mistake and they capitalized on that mistake. Helias is a good enough team to jump on that and they took advantage,” he added.

However, Camdenton certainly had a few chances of its own offensively. The Lakers just could not find that break.

“We had an opportunity early in the game to take a shot right from the opening and we did not get that off. We also had a couple of guys going across the top of the 18 (yard box) that did not take some shots for us,” Gow pointed out. “Those are the things we’ve been talking about and working on in practice... This is what we need to fix and like I was telling the boys after the game, we don’t have these glaring things to take care of. Just tiny minor things that can be adjusted and fixed if they are willing to put the time in and do some work. We can take care of those things.”

Still, Helias did not make things easy by any means for the Lakers. The Crusaders dominated possession time and controlled the ball for most of the night. Any time Camdenton looked to generate or spark an offensive attack, it was quickly stymied and the ball was sent the other way.

“Helias has great pursuit to the ball and they definitely put a body on you. They don’t try to win the ball with a leg tackle, but put a body on you and take the ball away,” Gow remarked. “They were organized and came out with confidence. I think it was a lot different game than the first time we played them and we did a lot better job against them scoreboard wise, but tactically we did not get the ball forward as much. I knew that was going to happen playing the way we wanted to play and trying to get some counter (attack) going.”

Another adjustment Camdenton made was pulling sophomore forward Josh Gerdiman from his usual forward spot to midfielder to try and generate some consistency in the midfield. It was not the usual method of operation for Gerdiman, but Gow was still proud of his efforts on a night where he was on the receiving end of some tough tackles.

“He has really come on and just matured so much over the course of the season,” Gow said of the young sophomore. “Anybody that has been watching him play in the last month or so has just seen this kid that at one point would have gotten up totally ticked off. He was getting taken down tonight and he got up with composure, looked around, saw what had to be done and got some stuff done. He has just been a really good leader for us.  He believes in the team and has talked to the boys about being a teammate and stuff like that so it is cool and I like it.”

Helias punched through with its second goal in the 61st minute and scored its third in 73rd minute, but not before Moriearty made back-to-back penalty kick saves in the span of 17 seconds. Moriearty, who is listed at 6-feet tall, may as well have measured in at the height and width of the goal as he flew all over the place with diving saves and sometimes made stops at point-blank range.

“If that does not light a fire under you to play with a little more intensity, then there is nothing that is going to light more finder under you after your keeper does that for you,” Gow said of the two penalty kick saves. “He definitely kept us in the game and gave us every opportunity.”

There was a spark for Camdenton at the end though. It was lit when Camdenton sophomore defender Luke Galbreath placed a perfectly struck 20-yard free kick into the upper right corner of the goal as time expired to get the Lakers on the board. Gow had brought up the defender into the attacking third with about 10 or 11 minutes to go to get a shot on frame and the decision paid off.

“I was trying to get him into more of an offensive position and I talked to him a little bit about what I expected him to do. He was ready to do that,” Gow stated. “We just could not find him out here consistently, but I was really happy that he just set the ball, took the shot and put it into frame. That is what we’ve been trying to get our guys to do for the full season and to see somebody do it like that right now just shows that is what we need to do and it works.”

Playing the last high school game in any sport can be tough for seniors to go through, but Gow said the efforts of Moriearty, senior midfielder Spencer Brunnert and senior defender Aaron Rassel will not quickly be forgotten.

The coach said Moriearty’s leadership could not easily be replaced.

“It is not just the way he plays in the goal, but the way he conducts himself, talks to his teammates and the way he leads by example,” the coach noted. “Those are all the things you look for in a leader of any organization and he has done a really nice job for us.”

For Brunnert, Gow talked of his coachability and his unselfish play.

“Spencer has always been a positive and upbeat guy. He listens to what we have to say and goes out there and tries to get done whatever we ask him to do,” the coach said of the midfielder. “He wanted to be an outside midfielder, but he was willing to play anywhere for us and that is huge. That is something the boys have to look at, a senior willing to do whatever it takes and that is big. He has been a really special guy for us and he is just a good kid.”

Rassel has been battling a nagging thigh injury for the final month of the season, but Gow commended his support on the sidelines.

“Every time we thought hie is ready and he says he was ready to go we put him out there, but he re-pulled it or did something to it, but he has been a spectator that has been supportive of his guys. That has been his role for the last month, but he has been really supportive so that has been fun,” the coach said.

Camdenton finishes its season at 8-17, but Gow is excited for what the future may hold with many players returning. The coach said there has been positive vibes over the last several weeks and the focus has been on the team and not any one individual. Time will soon tell how that translates to 2018.

“I listened to some of the guys talking in the locker room the other day and they were talking about each other and how some of the younger players have grown into some really solid players and how they respect them as teammates,” Gow said. “It was interesting listening to the boys talk to each other about what their expectations are for one another. It was uplifting to hear them speak so positively of each other so they are upbeat and I am upbeat.

“It is heart-wrenching when you look at your seniors and realize it is their last game for high school, but the guys that I’ve listened to talk are high on each other and I expect they’ll take care of business.”