Friday, February 23, 2024

Offensive explosion leads Independence to sixth straight win

Credit Independence coach Ryan MacRaild for an assist in his team’s 7-2 win over Open Door Christian Academy on Thursday.

MacRaild scouted the Patriots earlier this season and found a potential weakness in the Open Door defense. The Blue Devils exploited that hole to win their sixth straight game.

“I went out and watched Open Door play at Kirtland and I got an idea of what to expect,” MacRaild said. “They’ve got a pretty good offense but I saw some spots in their defense we could exploit and we did. We got out early and got two quick goals in the first three minutes. I think they were a little shell-shocked by that.”

Mike Wozniak, one of three Independence players to score two goals in the game, got the Blue Devils on the board just 19 seconds into the game. He added another two minutes later and Dan Malarik scored the first of his two goals to make it 3-0.

Evan Collins also scored two goals for Independence.

“It was great,” MacRaild said. “Woz got the first two and Danny chimed in and then Evan had two. That was five goals in the first half. Danny got a hustle goal in the second half and Nolan Fields came up at the end with a header off a corner kick to finish it off.”

Malarik ended the night with two goals and three assists.

“Dan started off for us as a right mid and worked his way up to forward because he’s got a lot of speed,” MacRaild said. “With him and Kevin Mewhinney up top, they’re probably two of the fastest forwards around; they have a lot of speed. A lot of his goals come from hard work. He’s very disruptive on the defensive side of the ball. He just doesn’t stop.”

Open Door scored off a free kick and a penalty kick.

Joe Bernstein, who earlier this season set a school record with his 14th career shutout, recorded five saves.

“We’ve got six straight wins now and that’s a testament to him and the defense,” MacRaild said. “They’re taking some pride in their work. Normally our defense has kept us in games but this time our offense took it by the horns. It was good to see them get involved.”

The Blue Devils, who improved to 7-2, have been dominant during their six-game win streak. They have outscored their opponents 30-3 and have recorded four shutouts during that stretch.

They return to action on Saturday when they travel to Cornerstone Christian Academy.

“We have some good games next week,” MacRaild said. “Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, we’re looking at 11-2. That would be pretty awesome. First we have to get through Saturday. We have to take them one at a time and keep everyone healthy and just keep plugging away.”

Steve Hare
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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