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Manchester scores seven, blanks Braves

Manchester's Harley Kruschwitz (left) rounds a defender before drawing a penalty in the second half of Saturday's contest against Fort Wayne Blackhack Christian.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER - Manchester’s boys’ soccer team had a chance on Saturday to make a statement against one of the top soccer programs in the area at home against Fort Wayne Blackhawk. The Squires seized every ounce of the moment, routing the Braves 7-0 on the day to improve to 8-0 on the season.

“It is (a statement win),” Manchester head coach Dave McKee said. “And we treated it that way. We wanted to make a statement and we did.”

From the first whistle, Manchester was the side on the front foot. Harley Kruschwitz and Caleb Stout reaked havoc on the Brave defense throughout with the former playing the latter through for a 1-on-1 with the keeper in the early moments that was saved.

Hunter Klutz would help maintain the pressure as his curling effort would carom off the crossbar minutes later before Kruschwitz and Stout finally put the hosts ahead. After latching onto a through ball from Kruschwitz, Stout rounded the keeper to score and put the Squires up 1-0.

While the pressure maintained throughout the half, it wouldn’t be until just under 10 minutes left in the half before Manchester doubled its lead as Kruschwitz weaved through a host of Braves before slotting past the keeper with his left foot.

Kruschwitz would notch his second in the waning moment of the half, sliding one under the goalie with four seconds left to send the Squires into the half up 3-0.

After just one shot in the first half, Blackhawk Christian’s best spell came in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Despite having the lion’s share of the possession in the spell, the Braves couldn’t manage a serious effort on goal.

“They came out in the first ten minutes of the second half and controlled the game,” McKee said. “I knew once we got through ten minutes, they wouldn’t be able to sustain it.”

Almost precisely 10 minutes into the half, Kruschwitz would take a throw-in and dribble 30 yards before earning his hat trick with a left-footed effort. Four minutes later, he would grab his fourth after a driven shot to the far post, giving Manchester a 5-0 lead.

With 20 minutes left, Kruschwitz would draw a penalty that Klayton Hendrix would convert for his first goal of his career. The final touches on the game would come from Brandon Hernandez as he turned in a cross from AJ Fortman for his own first career goal, finishing off the Squires 7-0 win.

Contributions from the likes of Hernandez and Fortman, a freshman and sophomore, respectively, is one thing McKee points out as the difference between this season’s team versus last year’s.

“I think the difference in this team is those young guys are stepping up,” McKee said. “You see quite a few young guys out there playing. I’m excited about our freshmen class. They’re going to keep this tradition of soccer at Manchester going.”

Manchester’s 60 goals on the season through eight games is the exact same pace as last season in which the Squires set the school mark for goals scored.

The Squires will return to Three Rivers Conference play with a home game against Rochester on Tuesday before hosting Eastbrook on Thursday.