Northwest (14-1) and Maize (12-3) have proven to be two of the more physical, athletic and skilled soccer teams in the state. Northwest picked up a 3-2 win on the road Tuesday in a non-league game that had the atmosphere of a state title match.
"I think these are the two best teams in the state," said Maize forward Nick Maloney, who scored both his team's goals. "It definitely showed with the crowd and the atmosphere. It was intense."
The Eagles had to claw back into the matchafter Northwest stunned them in the first half. Grizzlies forward Austin Clifton did something that few people in the area can do — he outran Maize defender Bryton Quick. Clifton had Maize keeper Blake Andrews on an island and kicked it in past the outstretched body of the Eagles' goalie for the game's first goal.
Then in a moment of disarray right before the end of the half, Northwest's Lalo Luna hit Broc Cramer with a pass that set him up for an easy goal with eight second left in the half.
"We were glad that we threw the first punch," Cramer said. "It's a big momentum shifter when you get that first one. It gives us an edge. Then we got the second one right before the half to keep the momentum and carry it through the game. We needed all of them."
Northwest goalie Jonathan Lane made eight saves and agreed that that early lead was a key to victory.
"The two-goal lead going into the half was a huge momentum shifter," Lane said. "We all believed in the half that we could win, and we came out and proved that we could."
C.J. Mills scored Northwest's third goal, sandwiched between Maloney's two scores.
Maloney got his first goal on a penalty kick after being tripped inside the box, and drilled in an unassisted goal with 13:09 left to give Maize a bit of hope.
"I think we believed the whole time," Maize coach Mike Darrah said. "And if we would have tied it, it would have been fun to see what would have happened. But we didn't capitalize on our opportunities."
Both teams defended well and made it hard to get off clean shots. Maize and Northwest finished with 10 shots on goal each.
"They are a very good defense," Cramer said. "They are one of the best in the state. Their record and stats show it, but my guys are good too. We had just as many shutouts and we played just as hard."
Northwest2 1 — 3 Maize0 2 — 2
First half—Northwest, Clifton (unassisted), Cramer (Luna). Second half— Maize, Maloney (PK); Northwest, Mills (Luna); Maize, Maloney (unassited). Shots— Northwest 5-5—10; Maize 6-4—10. Saves— Northwest, Lane 5-3—8; Maize, goalie 4-2—6.