Thursday, September 23, 2021

Blue Devils record ninth straight shutout

State-ranked Independence continued its historic run on Tuesday with an 8-0 win over visiting Berkshire on the turf of Stan Skoczen Stadium at Alumni Field.

The Blue Devils, ranked fourth in Division III in the latest state coaches’ poll, recorded their ninth consecutive shutout, moving them into a tie for fourth in Ohio High School Athletic Association history for consecutive shutouts in a season.

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“The boys played a good game tonight,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “Berkshire was overmatched a bit, but fought hard and battled from start to finish; a class act with heart and a good young coach.”

As impressive as Independence’s defense has been during that stretch, the Blue Devils have been equally potent on offense.

Elek McDonald, Seamus Kral and Sam Belitz each scored a pair of goals and Wyatt Kunevicius and Kyle Streibel both had one.

“We were able to get opportunities from different spots on the field and from different players so it was tough for them to really pinpoint the attack,” MacRaild said.

McDonald’s first goal came off a one-touch pass from Kral and Belitz assisted on the second.

“The first goal came off a great ball from Luke (Wisniewski) and a flick-on from Seamus that couldn’t have been better,” McDonald said. “I just anticipated the flick and made my run in and finished it off in the bottom corner. The second one, Sam gave me a great through ball in, so I took it out of the air and just hit it in the back of the net.”

McDonald has been one of Independence’s top distributors this season, but, as he showed on Tuesday, he’s just as dangerous as a finisher.

“I think my role on this team has mainly been a distributor and playing the ball forward to my teammates, which I’m very comfortable doing, but when chances have been created for me in the attacking third, I’ve just been in the right places at the right time,” he said.

With the win, the Blue Devils, who improved to 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division, clinched a share of a third straight league title.

“The boys knew that a share of the CVC was up for grabs tonight so they wanted to assure at least a part of the title for the third straight year with this win,” MacRaild said. “One goal is nearly in the books. Now they are looking to keep that shutout streak going, the win streak going and keep playing good soccer into the playoff run.”

The Blue Devils will be tested later this week when they travel to Elyria Catholic on Thursday and Wellington on Saturday.

Wellington received votes in the latest Division III state coaches’ poll and the Blue Devils also have a league game against Beachwood left to play.

“We will run into some solid teams with Beachwood and Wellington, as well as a potential rematch with Wickliffe somewhere in the district, but we are playing it one game at a time,” MacRaild said. “We head to Elyria Catholic, who will be looking to avenge last year’s playoff loss, Thursday for another in-district matchup. It has been a fun run and the boys are starting to hit their stride physically, as well as tactically, on the field. It should be a good few weeks for us.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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