The Century boys soccer team dominated possession and capitalized for a 3-0 West Region win over Minot on Thursday at Optimist Soccer Complex.
Unfortunately for the Patriots (2-1-1 overall, 1-0 region), the win came with a devastating injury. The two-time defending state champions lost senior midfielder Seth Kreft on what appeared to be a season-ending leg injury.
Kreft, one of four seniors for CHS, was taken off the field on a stretcher by paramedics about 20 minutes after he was crumpled by MHS senior Ben Love's slide tackle. It was Love's second yellow card of the first half, bringing out a red card and a one-game suspension.
Minot High School junior forward Ekow Annan dribbles by Century junior Anthony Morrell (10) and senior Dominic Neameyer.
Century second-year coach Nate Ulness refused to comment on the incident or Kreft's condition.
Love, reached by phone following the game, said it appeared that Kreft's leg was broken. The physical defender said he was going for the ball, but realized too late that he mistimed the tackle.
"Kind of a freak accident," Love said. "I probably hit him half as hard as I usually hit someone on a slide tackle."
MHS coach Cody Saunders agreed with his player that the intent was to play the ball.
"Ben got him," Saunders said. "I mean, it's soccer, unfortunately."
The referee didn't immediately book Love. Kreft could be heard and seen in agonizing pain near the west sideline.
The first yellow card of the match was given to Love in the third minute on a push that sent a Patriot to the ground. Both players jumped to head the ball.
"I don't know. I guess, I usually am a crazy soccer player," Love said. "I go 'til the whistle. I think I'll probably, in the back of my mind, be a little smarter."
Century proved the smarter and more composed team throughout the match. The Patriots kept their spacing, controlled their first touches better and kept attacks alive with smooth passing along the pitch.
CHS senior Dominic Neameyer scored in the game's 10th minute with a header off senior Brad Kelly's corner kick. MHS junior defender Jay Gray stopped the Patriots' first two quality opportunities, but the Magicians (1-2, 0-1) left Neameyer unchallenged in the air and he directed the ball into the upper right corner.
"We just weren't ready for that and that can't happen," Saunders said. "So that's just us not being prepared for the game. Century is known for that. They get the ball set up right away on set pieces."
In the 38th minute, Kelly added the second goal - about 45 seconds before Kreft suffered the injury. Kelly, left unmarked in front of the goal, clanked a shot off the right post and into the net. Century junior reserve Jacob Crosby scored the final goal three minutes into the second half. Crosby collected a through ball from Neameyer on the right side and finished with a low shot to the left.
"In the midfield, we just moved the ball, switching the point of attack, finding our outside players, getting good services, good combination play with our forwards," Neameyer said. "When we pass around them it opens up a lot of opportunities."
Century had 12 shots on goal to just four for the Magicians. MHS managed to hold the Patriots to one goal in the second half with one less player because of the red card. Quality opportunities eluded the home side, in part because of Century's ability to beat MHS to the majority of 50/50 balls.
"They just possess the ball and they possess the ball well," Saunders said, "and so it's frustrating on defense when you're playing defense for 15 minutes. Then you don't really ever get to attack, but (Century's) a very talented team. First half, they were more physical than us."
MHS senior goalkeeper Garrett Weishaar finished with eight saves. CHS sophomore Zach Sweep made five saves. Love will serve his suspension during Tuesday's home game against Mandan.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.