ROCKFORD – Three years ago, five of this year’s Richmond-Burton seniors played up as freshmen on the varsity boys soccer team and won zero games all season.
Those same seniors helped the Rockets lift their first regional championship hardware in program history Saturday. R-B defeated Rockford Christian, 2-0, in the IHSA Class 1A Rockford Christian Regional championship game.
R-B (17-6), which also has won the most games in program history, advances to play Indian Creek at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 1A Oregon Sectional semifinals.
“These kids have dealt with the process, never got down,” R-B coach Casey DeCaluwe said. “They continued to work in the offseason, they continued to work when results didn’t go our way. We learned from it.”
Aidan Hannigan, Pierce Rockwell, Billy Restis, Payton May and Liam Weck were all on the 2016 team that went 0-17-2. R-B raised its win total to two in 2017 and went 7-10-3 last year before the breakthrough in 2019.
In Saturday’s win, it was a junior, Carson Webb, and a sophomore, Ethan Demers, who scored goals to secure the victory.
Webb scored in the 15th minute on a free kick from the left side of the box. He wasn’t aiming for the net, but no one reached his service for a header, and it took a favorable bounce once it hit the ground.
“I was just trying to set up my teammates and put a good ball in,” Webb said. “It just took a good bounce and went in. That’s the goal, just to get it in there any way possible. So I’ll take it.”
Moments later, Demers scored to put the Rockets ahead, 2-0, with a goal from the top of the box in the 17th minute. He took advantage of a rolling ball and just enough space to fire a shot.
“Just put your head over it and put it on frame, then good things happen,” Demers said.
Demers and senior Hayden Rudkin created numerous chances for the Rockets in the first half. R-B sent seven shots at Rockford Christian goalkeeper Jamison Graber in the first half.
Rudkin left the game with a left ankle injury midway through the second half and did not return.
“They’re so dynamic in their movement,” DeCaluwe said. “Hayden loves to check in and find a ball at his feet. Ethan is just such a pain on [opposing] defensive backs. He’s always constantly pressuring.”
Webb serves as a free kick specialist, but he shined on defense as well in the shutout. Rockford Christian’s Will Wiebe presented a tall attacker for the Royal Lions.
The Rockets clamped down, even when Rockford Christian sent numbers forward late in the game.
“We were able to back track with them pretty well, kept their speed under control,” Webb said. “We were able to build out of the back and get some offense out of it.”
R-B goalkeeper Jacob Maldonado made seven saves in the victory.
In knocking out the Royal Lions, R-B bested a program that had won three consecutive Class 1A regional titles.
STAR OF THE GAME
Carson Webb, Richmond-Burton, jr., D
Webb scored the game’s first goal on a free kick in the 15th minute. He also played solid defense for the Rockets on the back line in a shutout victory.
0: In 2016, R-B won zero games during an 0-17-2 season. Five current Rockets seniors were on the varsity team that season and saw the turnaround result in a record-setting 2019.
AND ANOTHER THING …
“Best season we’ve had in boys history,” Webb said. “Just building off of each win going into the next game.”
Richmond-Burton 2, Rockford Christian 0
RC 0 0 – 0
R-B 2 0 – 2
R-B – Webb, 15th minute.
R-B – Demers, 17th minute.
Goalkeeper saves – Rockford Christian: Graber 7, Thumme 0. Richmond-Burton: Maldonado 9.