INDEPENDENCE—Kirtland’s win last week over Beachwood, the state’s second ranked team and the defending Chagrin Valley Conference champion, caught Independence’s attention.
The Blue Devils spent extra time in practice preparing for Tuesday night’s showdown at Alumni Field at Stan Skoczen Stadium. That preparation paid off as the Blue Devils jumped out to a two goal lead and held on for a 4-2 win.
“We kind of knew what we were getting into,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “They handled Beachwood earlier, a week ago or two weeks ago, and we knew what they were capable of. We did our preparation and did some scouting and really prepared the boys the last couple of days. We put together a game plan and executed.”
With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 8-0-2 overall and are just one win away from clinching the school’s first CVC title. Independence last won a league title in 1997 back when the team played in the Metropolitan Area Conference.
Wyatt Kunevicius gave the Blue Devils an early lead when he punched in a loose ball of a corner kick with 22:37 left in the first half. Evan Collins made it 2-0 seven minutes later.
Despite the 2-0 lead, MacRaild and the Blue Devils were cautious heading into the second half.
“We knew at halftime when it was still close that they were going to throw the kitchen sink at us and we would have to weather that storm,” MacRaild said. “For about 20 minutes there in the second half, that second 10-20 minutes of the second half, they just controlled the game and we were starting to get a little nervous.”
Kirtland’s Colin McGreal cut the Hornets’ deficit in half when he headed one into the back corner of the net with 29 minutes left in the game.
Independence, as it did all night, responded when Drew Benos found Kevin Mewhinney in the open and Mewhinney beat the Kirtland keeper to the left corner with 10:53 left to play.
Kunevicius scored his second goal of the night when he took a Collins pass and chipped one over the keeper at the last second before the two made contact.
The Hornets scored a late goal off a Bradley Hauptman direct kick
MacRaild credited his defense of Matt Mroczynski, Jared McCullouch, Nolan Fields and David Wisniewski for slowing down the Kirtland attack.
“We worked a lot on man defense and made sure everybody was focused on their job,” MacRaild said. “We’ve played this style before. We’ve run into some tough customers, some guys from Columbia and Beachwood that we had to really focus in on and they’ve got those type of players at Kirtland, so we really had to make sure we did our jobs and took care of business.”
The Blue Devils need a win over Berkshire on Tuesday to claim the CVC title.
“Beachwood and Kirtland have always been the top dogs and this was our year to make some noise and the boys really latched on to that goal,” MacRaild said. “We’re going to see it through. We’re going to make that happen.”