SISTERS — Even without its best player, it was clear from the start that Sisters had the better squad in a Class 4A Sky-Em League boys soccer match against Cottage Grove on Thursday.
Sisters, the undefeated three-time Class 4A Sky-Em champion, came away with a 7-0 victory for its sixth straight win to start the season. But the Outlaws' star forward, Jake McAllister, was held out for precautionary reasons because of a possible concussion. That forced players such as senior striker Justin Harrer to step in and fill McAllister's shoes, according to Outlaws coach Rob Jensen.
“Cottage Grove is a good team,” said Jensen, whose team improved to 3-0 in league play and 6-0 overall. “They're a really good team and our guys were able to step up in the face of a little bit of adversity.”
Harrer led the Outlaws with two goals, while Colton Manhalter, Ethan Stengel, Evan Rickards, Porter Ford and Jardon Weems all scored in the second half.
It was clear after 13 minutes of the first half that Sisters had the upper hand by posting two goals, both by Harrer.
“Justin Harrer stepped up in the first half,” Jensen said. “He scored two goals. He's a great player in his own right. Then in the second half, he played a little defense and basically locked them up.”
With the Outlaws up two goals in less than 15 minutes, they continued taking shots on Cottage Grove (2-1 Sky-Em, 4-2-1 overall) goalkeeper Ezra Poynter, who was able to stop 10 shots in the first half.
“We came out strong, but not as strong as we could have in the first half,” Weems, a senior defender, said. “But then we overcame that and we were way stronger in the second half and that showed.”
Sisters' momentum did not slow down. With the Outlaws' defense doing its part and only allowing four shots in the second half, all of which were wide or stopped by defenders, the offense was able to post five more goals in 12 attempts.
“We want to have the best defense in the state,” Jensen said. “We don't want anyone to score on us, and we take extreme pride in that. Offense is just icing on the cake.”
Early in the second half, Rickards scored on a free kick. Then in the 66th minute, Manhalter had an unassisted goal, followed by Ford's first goal in his high school career in the 67th minute.
Weems also had his first career goal in the 73rd minute on a penalty kick. The final goal came in the 79th minute when Manhalter crossed the ball to Stengel for the score.
The Outlaws struggled with being called for fouls in the second half, with 10 in all assessed to Sisters.
“Maintaining our poise was probably our struggle today,” Rickards said. “It was getting a little scrappy and getting hard with calls. It was definitely a test for us.”
According to Cottage Grove coach Brian Fish, the Lions struggled against a stronger Sisters team.
“Sisters is big, fast and they're pretty physical,” Fish said. “They're probably one of the top, if not the top, 4A team in the state this year. We could have done better, but we kind of gave up there at the end.”
According to Weems, Sisters' greatest asset was adapting to losing McAllister.
“We were missing our best player by far,” Weems said. “And by winning, it showed us that we're a really strong team all around. Even into the bench, we rely on everyone.”