Wood River High School varsity soccer players sent a loud-and-clear message Tuesday that they're ready to rumble in the always-tough Great Basin Conference this fall.
Sparked by the relentless marking defense of senior midfielder Alexander MacMillan, the Wolverines spotted two-time defending league champ Jerome a 1-0 lead and ripped off four unanswered goals for a 4-1 league triumph at South Valley Sports Complex in Hailey.
Liam Jablonski, a sophomore, tallied his varsity goal at 15 minutes equalizing the game 1-1, then sophomore Trevor Brand, senior Alejandro Garcia and senior Benito Reveles rounded out the scoring.
The size of the rout was surprising, since the teams were even in shots (13-13) and corner kicks (6-6). But Wood River finished its shots.
Jerome (41-3-1 since 2008), a 3-2 winner over Wood River in last fall's State 4A tournament consolation game, had dominated the Wolverines in recent years. Hailey teams (13-10-1 in the rivalry since 1997) had won only one of the last 12 games.
But the Wolverines were primed to play from the opening whistle. Coach Luis Monjaras said, "The kids were prepared coming in. They've been anxious to play Jerome since losing to them at state last year."
MacMillan threw the collar on lightning-fast Jerome senior striker Sergio Madrigal, who had scored three goals in Jerome's season-opening 8-0 victory at Buhl. And his teammates stepped up, supporting each other and pressuring Jerome.
Said Monjaras, "The boys did what we wanted. We doubled up whenever Jerome got the ball at midfield and closed down their attack. Once we did it, their threat was done.
"Alex is our #1 guy for man-to-man coverage. We had him marking Skyview's #1 guy, and obviously Alex is getting even better at it. He shut down Sergio and took him out of the game. Sergio got frustrated."
Monjaras dropped senior Spyder Turco back to the sweeper position and inserted junior Jeffrey Espejo at left back after Zack Freeman aggravated a leg injury. As always, Harlan Collins was a force on defense.
Espejo did a great job off the bench, and "Spyder's speed helped us recover on Jerome's through balls," the coach said. Only once did Madrigal slip past MacMillan, at 72 minutes, and Turco blocked his shot.
The passing combination of seniors Carlos Martinez to Salvador Mercado to Becerra Martin gave Jerome a 1-0 lead at 13 minutes. On the right wing, combative Trevor Brand battled off Tiger defender Luis Romero and pushed the ball to Jablonski, who scored on the ground.
Jake Freeman's long cross pass eluded Wood River's Alex Lopez in the box, but Brand was there to collect the ball and pound it into the corner for a 2-1 lead at 36 minutes.
Only a minute was gone in the second half when junior Nathan Moses intercepted a Tiger clearing pass and dropped the ball to Garcia, who turned around and scored. Garcia's speed up front put plenty of pressure on the Jerome defense.
Sometimes underestimated because of his easy gait, Reveles kept after a loose ball, blocked it with his body and tapped a ball into the corner for the final goal at 52 minutes.
"It was a well-fought game," said Monjaras. "Every year, it seems it's been between Jerome and us."
Wood River (2-2-0, 1-1-0 league) visited Canyon Ridge (1-2-0, 0-0-0) Thursday and goes to Burley (2-1-0) Tuesday. Burley lost at home 2-1 to Preston Tuesday after 2-1 after 2-0 wins over Hillcrest and Highland.
Minico (5-0-0, 1-0-0) is the league leader, having outscored opponents 23-3. Minico visited Twin Falls Thursday. Jerome hosted Burley Thursday and entertains Minico Sept. 9. And Wood River hosts Twin Falls (1-0-1, 0-0-0) on Thursday, Sept. 9.
6-0 win over Jerome for girls
Wood River's soccer girls maintained the program's mastery over Jerome Tuesday with a 6-0 Great Basin Conference win, at Jerome. The Wolverines are 16-0-0 against Jerome since 2004 with 12 shutouts.
Hailey's girls (3-1-0, 2-0-0 league) recorded their third shutout in four games with a 35-shot barrage led by the scoring of Tanner Dredge (2 first half-goals, 2 assists), Sloan Storey (2 second-half goals), K.T. Martinez (a team-high 5 goals) and McKenna Chase (3 goals season).
Chase assisted Martinez's first goal at 11:30 and Martinez set up Dredge at 34:40 for a 2-0 lead on an indirect kick connection. Storey and Jessica Martens added assists. Keeper Madison Gove made two saves.
Wood River visits Twin Falls (3-1-0) for league supremacy Sept. 9 after home league games against Canyon Ridge Thursday and Burley on Tuesday, Sept. 7. The Highland Rams beat Twin 5-2 Tuesday.