The most proximate opponent turned out to be not so close to the Bobcats.
The Class 3A No. 15-ranked Marshalltown boys' soccer team hosted its nearest neighbor on the pitch, but South Tama could not handle the unbeaten Bobcats and MHS cruised to a 7-0 victory and a 9-0 start.
The most disrupting speed bump for the Bobcats on this night was South Tama's goalkeeper. Junior Luis Perez made 13 saves - most of them of brilliant fashion - to prevent the Trojans from getting defeated by double-digits.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
South Tama goalkeeper Luis Perez (1) makes a second consecutive save on Marshalltown’s Ellis Buchwald (15) during first half boys’ soccer action Monday at Leonard Cole Field. The host Bobcats, ranked 15th in Class 3A, broke free for a 7-0 victory over their soccer neighbors to the east.
"He did a heck of a job," MHS coach Creighton Jenness credited. "If he wasn't playing at his best, it would have been 15-to-nil.
"He played lights out."
Martin Chavarria, Alfonso Gonzalez and David Gomez each tallied two goals apiece and Marshalltown remained as one of seven undefeated teams across the state. Monday's make-up game, however, served as a warm-up for the Bobcats to break into a more daunting schedule than what they've seen to this point.
Marshalltown 7, South Tama 0
MHS - Martin Chavarria (Austin Lovin), 6:08.
MHS - Alfonso Gonzalez (Chavarria), 15:14.
MHS - own goal, 15:37.
MHS - Gonzalez (Victor Cisneros), 16:46.
MHS - Chavarria (David Gomez), 32:24.
MHS - Gomez (Tony Ordaz-Zambrano), 52:46.
MHS - Gomez (Mi Reh), 69:59.
Saves - STC: Luis Perez (20 shots on goal-13 saves); MHS: Kreighton Miller (3-3), Eli Devine (14:14; 0-0).
Fouls - STC 5, MHS 10.
Corner Kicks - MHS 4.
Yellow Cards - none.
Southeast Polk (5-5-1) visits Leonard Cole Field tonight, MHS goes to 10th-ranked Ames (7-2) on Friday, and the Nevada Tournament awaits on Saturday.
"With our depth and how well we're gelling and playing together, I don't look at a team and am overly scared of them," said Jenness. "The guys are already looking forward to the Ames game but we have to play them a game at a time, a half at a time.
"If we're playing excellent like we've been playing, I think we'll do quite alright against any team we go against."
Marshalltown secured possession after possession in finally breaking down South Tama (2-6), which actually got the first shot on goal. The Trojans sent a free kick on Kreighton Miller in the third minute, but it was one of only three stops the Bobcat backstop would be required to make all night.
MHS earned a penalty kick in the sixth minute when Ellis Buchwald was elbowed in the goal area, but Perez was up to the challenge - twice - on the ensuing opportunity. He stopped Buchwald's initial shot and his putback attempt, but Marshalltown kept coming.
Chavarria broke the scoreless tie on a bicycle kick that glanced off a defender's head, finding its way over Perez in the seventh minute.
Gonzalez turned a Chavarria lead pass into a 2-0 lead at the 24:46 mark, and a South Tama own goal gave Marshalltown a 3-0 lead just 23 seconds later.
A corner kick by Victor Cisneros barely a minute later resulted in a second goal for Gonzalez, who stood head and shoulders above the Trojan defense and redirected the pass into the net.
Perez came up with three more mesmerizing saves before Chavarria rifled a low left-footed shot past him when David Gomez dropped a corner kick off to one of the state's leading scorers.
Most of Marshalltown's starters sat the entirety of the second half, and Gomez scored twice on assists from Tony Ordaz-Zambrano and Mi Reh to bring the score to its 7-0 final.
"I guess they have always wanted to play Marshalltown, they've always wanted to compare themselves," South Tama's first-year coach Dmitriy Shklyarov said. "The players we have are of very good quality, and I wanted them to measure themselves against a very good opponent.
"I wanted them to try to earn some respect, earn some self-respect and measure themselves, and some of them did."
Last year's meeting ended in a 2-1 Bobcat triumph, but South Tama's fleet-footed strikers never had much opportunity to try and punch through the shutout this time around. Neither Adrian Castenon nor Eric Luna could shake free of the Bobcats' back line, though midfielders Cesar Rivera and Alejandro Martinez did their best to present their strikers with chances against a superior squad.
Marshalltown had many scoring chances throughout the match, but Perez played too well to let the result get too far out of hand.
"They will remember him," Shklyarov said. "He's a really good goalkeeper."
The Trojans are back in action tonight as well, hosting Vinton-Shellsburg in Tama. STC goes to Oskaloosa on Thursday and the Waverly-Shell Rock Tournament on Saturday.
The Marshalltown junior varsity squads split, winning 4-0 and falling 3-1. In the loss, Terrence Douo scored the Bobcats' only goal. Douo also scored in the victory, as did Jose Avina, Josue Herrera and Cristian Avalos.