Just past the midway point of the high school boys soccer season, there are only two teams that have really found a rhythm in the NIC-10 — and those two teams faced off last week with Boylan pounding out a 4-0 victory over East on Wednesday.
Now it’s a race to the NIC-10 title, and a showdown to see who can get the most momentum heading into regionals.
Boylan (11-1, 4-0 NIC-10) and East (8-4, 2-2) were the only two teams in the league more than just one game over .500 on the season to end the week last week. The rest of the NIC-10, led by Guilford (5-4-2, 3-0) and Belvidere (5-4, 2-2), is left chasing, at least until the postseason kicks in.
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But there is quite a ways to go still.
“There are some good teams around,” Boylan’s first-year coach Jose Gomez said. “And everybody is starting to play its best right now.”
Curiel and East knocked off Belvidere 7-6 in penalty kicks earlier in the week last Tuesday, the same night that Boylan blasted Belvidere North 4-1. But Boylan prevailed in a big way in the big showdown on Wednesday, jumping on top early and often.
“That kind of showed us that we’re in a good place right now,” Gomez said of his team’s 11-1 start. “We’ve played the last couple of games the way I knew we could, and the kids are seeing what works. We’re motivated right now.”
Boylan’s youth coming around
The E-Rabs could have put a large dent into Boylan’s lead in the league last week, but instead the Titans took control. Boylan scored three goals in the first 15 minutes and never let East get going.
With three freshman starting and two more in the substitute rotation, Boylan is young, But as the Titans have proved through the first half of this season, they are powerful, too.
Most believed a repeat of last year’s Class 2A state championship was a stretch. It’s not looking that way these days.
“I thought at the beginning of the year, this could be a tough year for us. We might struggle a little,” Gomez said. “But man, they have really stepped it up. They have really surprised me, especially all of the young guys. The freshmen have been fantastic.”
Freshman Pedro Perez-Ortiz scored two goals on Tuesday and another on Wednesday, and freshmen Ivan Ibarra-Contreras and Skylar Sowell are in the starting lineup, while freshmen Jesus Mandujano and Tyler Anderson are one of the first subs to go in.
Senior captains Jovanny Millan and Victor Ibarra, as well as senior Reece Schlichting, help make this the team to beat headed down the second-half of the season.
East, Curiel can rebound
Curiel and the E-Rabs were shut down on Wednesday night, but they are still among the best in the NIC-10, and could still set themselves up for a strong postseason run.
East won four in a row heading into the match with Boylan, and now looks to finish strong.
Curiel has 17 goals on the season to lead the team and the conference.
Time to get hot for the playoffs
After a 2-1 overtime win over Hononegah, Guilford is undefeated at 3-0 in NIC-10 play, but the Vikings were just 5-4-2 headed into their late-week matchup with Jefferson. The J-Hawks, Belvidere and Hononegah were all 2-2 in NIC-10 play, but Jefferson and Belvidere had been stuck at five wins on the season for over a week, while Hononegah was just 3-7 and on a four-game losing skid headed into a match at Sycamore on Thursday
So, with just three weeks left in the regular season, it’s a mad scramble to get hot before the playoffs.
Boylan and East each have some key games coming on Tuesday nights. Boylan hosts Auburn and then Hononegah the next two Tuesdays, and then is at Guilford on Oct. 11. The E-Rabs will look to get back on track when they host Hononegah next Tuesday, then head to Harlem the following Tuesday, before hosting Guilford on Oct. 4.
NIC-10 boys soccer standings
Record as of Sept. 19.
- Boylan 11-1 (4-0)
- Guilford 6-4-2 (3-0)
- Jefferson 5-7-1 (2-2)
- East 8-4 (2-2)
- Belvidere North 5-4 (2-2)
- Hononegah 3-7 (2-2)
- Auburn 1-13 (1-1)
- Harlem 3-10-2 (1-3)
- Belvidere 5-5-1 (1-3)
- Freeport 2-6-1 (0-3)
Jay Taft is a Rockford Register Star sports reporter. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JayTaft. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com. Jay has covered a wide variety of sports, from the Chicago Bears to youth sports, for more than 20 years at the Register Star, and for nearly 30 years altogether. He was a four-sport athlete himself, and is the father of five that went on to be jocks of some kind as well.