Bulldogs upend Allegan in shutout fashion
Members of the Otsego boys’ soccer team are having a hard time remembering what it feels like to end up on the losing end of game.
That’s what happens when you haven’t been on the losing side of the ledger in more than a month.
With its 3-0 Wolverine Conference win over Allegan on Monday, Oct. 1, Otsego ran its unbeaten streak to a school-record 10 straight games.
The last loss by the Bulldogs came in the form of a 4-1 setback to Hastings on Monday, Aug. 27.
“This match was played at a really high tempo throughout,” Otsego coach Levi Butcher said. “Our attackers did a great job pressing and forcing errors, which put Allegan on their heels.”
In addition to the record for longest unbeaten streak, Otsego goalie Jayden Dentler also set a school record for shutouts with 9.5.
Dentler made four saves in the contest, with most of those coming in the first half.
“Allegan’s midfielders did a good job of winning 50/50s and keeping the ball in the first half,” Butcher said. “Our back line made a couple errors, which led to a few dicey moments in the early going. But once they settled in they were in lock down mode.
“Cole Sallee leads that group and we get excellent contributions from all five or six guys that rotate around back there.”
The Otsego offense, meanwhile, got goals from three different players.
Jace Engels started the scoring midway through the first half, as the Bulldogs took the 1-0 lead to halftime.
Arbnor Kurtishi (48th minute) and Jakson Dentler (63rd minute) accounted for the two second-half goals. Engels, Jared Swope and Josh Loll each picked up an assist.
“The final ball into the attacking third was much too heavy in the first half, but we cleaned that up in the second and started feeding our forwards resulting in much more sustained pressure and more quality chances,” Butcher said.
“Arbnor and Jakson buried two of those, but we also had some near misses that could have put the game out of reach earlier in the evening. Credit to the Allegan keeper, who was off his line quickly a few times to clear the danger when we got in behind.”
First-year Allegan coach Aaron Rogers thought his team let some early chances slip away.
“The entire game was a battle for possession, as both teams came out aggressive and smart,” Rogers said. “We had a couple chances early with great wing play and smart, quick passing, but Otsego took the momentum with a set piece goal.
“In the second half, we lost a bit of our mental game and began to play the ball too forward, giving away possessions too frequently and struggling to gain momentum back. Otsego did a great job defensively of holding their ground and offensively creating and capitalizing on chances.”
Butcher was impressed with the level of play he saw from Allegan under Rogers’ tutelage.
“Overall, the match was a welcomed change in style for the Allegan program,” Butcher said. “They are a much more composed and connective team under Coach Rogers. Though the match was played with physicality and speed, it never got out of control and his team showed good sportsmanship throughout.
“His group hasn’t won a bunch of matches in his first year, but it takes time to build culture and set expectations and it looks as if he is doing a great job of it. A new look, and a new reputation, will serve that program well in years to come.”