With a league title staring the Horizon Christian soccer team squarely in the face last week, the players were on a mission entering their final three games.
The Hawks wanted to give their school its first-ever league title, and needed to win or tie two of those games -- all at home -- to be guaranteed a bye when the league playoffs begin Oct. 27.
The players knew that every opponent would be trying to knock them off their perch atop the league standings, and they would be forced to come out stronger every game if they hoped to make history.
And the road wasn't getting any easier. Two of the league's top challengers came to town last week hoping to prey on the Hawks' division hopes. But Horizon stood tall and emerged the way they have in all but one game this season: with a win.
They clawed their way to hard-fought victories over Chehalem 2-1 on Oct. 16, and City Christian 2-0 on Oct. 19 to run their season record to an eye-popping 12-0-1.
In disposing of these two formidable opponents, the Hawks proved that they are a complete team that relies just as much on defense as it does the potent scoring combination of Joel Stenberg and Cheyne Swick.
Though Stenberg and Swick were responsible for all the Hawks’ goals in last week's run, the back line of John Winters, Brian Stenberg, Dane Ueland and John Harvey stepped up their games to a new level as well, especially against City Christian.
"The team focused in practice on distributing the ball from the back and spreading it around the field to all players on offense," coach Hal Ueland said.
Paul Rovianek and Colin Franger also got numerous scoring opportunities as a result of the new strategy, and opened up the field well on both sides. Aaron Griffin remained solid in the net to record yet another shutout.
With their perfect record still intact, the Hawks still had to win their final game Tuesday against Portland Lutheran to make the divsion title official.
But the school received word Monday that archrival North Clackamas had lost, giving Horizon Christian its first-ever division title, and making Tuesday's game a mere formality (results were not yet available).
The 2001 season is now complete, and the league champion Hawks will take to the field next in the state tournament beginning Nov. 6.