Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – West High used the classic formula it has exploited all during the Brad Stiles era to defeat Bettendorf, 4-1, Friday at Cownie Soccer Complex in a 3A boys soccer semifinal.
* The Trojans employed their depth to their advantage in high-80s temperatures.
* The defense successfully defused attacks time after time by reappropriating the ball before the key connection could be made.
* After the game was tied at halftime the Trojans reclaimed the momentum behind the talented combination of forwards Alex Andersen and Anton N’Dayishimiye.
*They had some good fortune.
But having said that, this is a West High team like no other that has reached the championship game. (West has won a record eight titles and was runner-up three other times.) This is a team that did not win a conference title and lost seven games, by far the most of any team in the 3A field.
While Stiles has an explanation for where his team finds itself, he’s still as surprised as a lot of others.
“Yeah, I’m definitely surprised,” he said. “To be playing for a state title…My daughter has a dance recital tomorrow, and I bought a ticket. Sorry family.”
“The seven losses enabled all 26 of us to pull together,” Nicholas Raley said. “It took a couple practices where we really turned up the intensity, and then the coachability skyrocketed. We started to listen, and Brad just starts doing his thing.”
“Our record is eighth seed, but our team isn’t,” Andersen said. “Everyone’s doing their job. We have a deep bench; everyone’s putting in solid minutes.”
The Trojans (15-7) play defending champion West Des Moines Valley (20-3) Saturday at 5 p.m. for the championship. The Tigers beat City High last year for the title.
Andersen had a memorable game against Bettendorf with one assist and two goals. His ball handling and chemistry with N’Dayishimiye was probably the biggest factor in the outcome.
West scored first in the fourth minute when Andersen fought off a slide tackle and passed to Raley on the right wing.
“It was mano a mano in the midfield, so if I could beat my guy I knew I had space,” Andersen said. “I could have gone myself but I had two guys on my right, and Raley is just one of those players that I trust to put the ball away. It looked exactly like the City High game when he put one in the top corner.”
Raley hooked a beautiful shot into the upper left corner that the keeper had no chance to reach.
“It was a brilliant effort from (Andersen), and as soon as the ball rolled out in front I knew I wouldn’t have much time to take more than one touch,” Raley said. “So I went for it.”
West controlled the first 30 minutes of the first half, but the Bulldogs came back to score the tying goal with 11 minutes left off a corner kick by Zach Elias. The ball came into the box and West keeper Zach Frisbie poked it away, but Bettendorf’s Brant Mueller headed in the ball to tie the game.
The Bulldogs had the momentum going into half after a strong final 10 minutes, but West had a plan of attack that proved successful.
“We had the game plan set; it just wasn’t getting executed,” Stiles said. “We tweaked what we had, and once we made the change to two forwards I think we caught them with that injury (to a defender) as well.”
With the game still tied about 15 minutes into the second half, Bettendorf failed to capitalize on an open-net situation when junior Dustin Harris blasted a shot wide. Harris sank to his knees with his head in his hands. That was the last real threat by Bettendorf.
Andersen and N’Dayishimiye took over from that point. With 21 minutes left N’Dayishimiye passed to an open Andersen on a counterattack and he cracked a low smash into the corner for a 2-1 lead.
“Anton’s doing a great job up top,” Andersen said. “He played in great balls, and I just did my job and tucked it away.”
Bettendorf coach Ben Pennington said the second West goal forced his hand and he went to three attackers, which left his defense vulnerable.
Four minutes later the same two Trojans combined for another goal as Andersen angled the shot sharply past the keeper.
“At halftime coach told us to gamble and we went to two forwards up top, and I gambled and after a touch from their center back I just scooped it up and put it away,” Andersen said.
“We work hard, we communicate and that’s what happens,” N’Dayishimiye said.
“For the most part it was the first time Bettendorf had to deal with two players,” Stiles said. “Those two were super composed. Those passes were properly weighted behind the defense, and Alex finished low on both of them.”
Freshman Brody Schilling, the brother of former West star Tanner Schilling, scored the final goal in the 79th minute.