Wolverines go for league title, perfect season on Wednesday
The pursuit of perfection
WESTFIELD — This year, there’s something special brewing at NorthLake.
The Westfield/Brocton Wolverines boys soccer team enters its final week of the regular season with an unblemished 15-0-0 record. Ranked in the top five across NY State, the Wolverines have one final test before the postseason begins — and what a test it will be.
On Wednesday, the Wolverines host the Maple Grove Red Dragons in the final game of the season for both teams. Each team has extended rest before the game, each team has a huge lead over the rest of the division, and each team is comfortably ranked in Class C of Section VI, with a home playoff game already a certainty.
The CCAA Central league title, however, comes down to Wednesday’s contest.
“It’s almost like a playoff game,” said Westfield/Brocton Jared Winder.
Westfield/Brocton defeated the Red Dragons earlier this year by a score of 1-0 in what has turned out to be the most crucial boys soccer game in Chautauqua County this regular season.
As stellar as Westfield/Brocton has been this year, Maple Grove has been nearly as good. Maple Grove (14-1, 8-1) has outscored its opponents 74-5 on the season. Maple Grove comes in on a five-game winning streak, with four straight games of five goals or more. The Red Dragons are the highest scoring team in both Class C and the CCAA, nine goals ahead of the Wolverines.
While the Red Dragons are coming in hot, the Wolverines have the benefit of playing on home field with the division title on the line.
“Our fan support at the games is huge. It definitely helps the overall team moral,” said Winder, noting that he hopes that advantage will work in his team’s favor on Wednesday.
Because of the win earlier in the year, Westfield/Brocton can do no worse than a tie for the CCAA Central division title. Maple Grove can earn a share of the title with a win, after winning the league a year ago.
Westfield/Brocton hopes this year, the title will undisputedly belong to the Wolverines. Taking down the traditional Class C powerhouse, Maple Grove, will surely be a challenge, but Westfield/Brocton proved it is up to the task already. In fact, even before the victory in the first meeting between the two Class C titans, the Wolverines proved they can take down one of the best teams in Western New York.
Winder points to a win in the first week of the season, a 3-0 win at Southwestern to begin the year, as what sparked the team for the run it has been on all year long.
“That first game against Southwestern really set the tone for us,” said Winder. “They were coming off a great year last year and they beat our program pretty handily a year ago. Winning on the road like that to start the year really let us know we had something really special going on this year.”
A crucial aspect to the Wolverines’ success has been the leadership of three senior captains, Westfield’s Mike Johnson, Nate Culbreth and Dylan Scriven.
“I have a great group of kids,” said Winder. “Our senior captains are great leaders of our team — Mike Johnson, Nate Culbreth and Dylan Scriven. They do a great job leading by example. It’s almost like having three extra assistant coaches.”
All three captains are Westfield natives, and Winder points to youth programs in town that have helped set the foundation for the success of the Wolverines.
“Our youth recreational soccer does a really good job of starting them young,” said Winder. “Andrew Webster, who is our assistant coach this year, does a great job with that. … Having him help me in my first year as head coach, his assistance has been vital to our success.”
Overall, the first year head coach of the Wolverines feels fortunate for the success he has had a front row seat to witness so far.
“It’s been a big learning and growth year for me. This is really my first experience as soccer coach,” said Winder, whose only experience as a coach has been with the sport of baseball before this season. “Coach (Jay) Pikiewicz (Winder’s predecessor) did a great job setting this program up for success. I’m just trying to do my best with a great program and I’m hoping to continue it.”
Wednesday is the next step on the Wolverines’ exciting journey. While the postseason success to follow may be more crucial in the grand scheme of things, an undisputed league championship banner would age quite nicely in the Westfield Academy gym.
Follow the action on Wednesday live on Twitter @bradencarmen.