Soccer: Elk boys eke out 1-0 win over Rogers

Joey Benz (15) slapped hands with Josh Chuba after scoring the lone goal of the match. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Most students enjoy homecoming week, especially student athletes, but all that festivity and pageantry makes coaches cringe.

“I hate homecoming week,” said Elk River-Zimmerman soccer coach Tom Olson, after his team labored to a 1-0 victory Saturday over a struggling Rogers squad at home.

“There’s so many distractions for the kids. We’ve had trouble focusing at times all season, and now homecoming to deal with, too. I hate playing on Saturday of homecoming week.”

But he had to admit, the 2011 homecoming week was a pretty good one for the Elks.

“Best one we ever had,” he reflected. “We went 3-0 and had two shutouts. Today it wasn’t pretty but we got the win.”

Rogers is just 1-10-1 this year, but made a good showing Saturday even though the other two District 728 schools were ganging up on them, with Zimmerman joining the Elks this year when their own program folded.

Elk goalie Cody Christ clutched the ball after making a save against Rogers' Kenny Kalk (11). The defender is Nelson Valdez. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Two Zimmerman kids produced the lone goal, as Joey Benz ripped one past Rogers goalie T.J. Scott off a great setup from Storm Heyer with 29 minutes left. Heyer boomed a pass from midfield that led Benz perfectly.

“Storm played a perfect ball to me, out of the back,” said Benz. “The defender totally missed it, and I had the advantage, and got it past the goalie. I put it in the near post because that’s what he gave me. It was a heckuva ball by Storm.”

The Elks have won four straight and the win Saturday pushed them over .500 at 6-5, after an 0-4 start. They are tied for first place at 4-2 in a NWSC race with no standout teams.

“I’m loving it,” said Benz, a sophomore, about the pairing with the Elks.

“The season hasn’t been easy,” he said. “We started out pretty bumpy. I think team chemistry was a factor at the beginning. But we’re going 100 percent now.”

Olson called it a “great play by Storm and Joey,” while praising four veterans for their role in the win streak. “Josh Chuba and Gavin Doppler were solid in the middle as usual and Ryan Ness and Kyle Orrock continue to distribute the ball well.”

Rogers had three or four good shots at the goal, with Elk goalie Cody Christ able to turn the away.

“I thought the whole team played a good game,” said Royals assistant coach Chad Kreuser, who had the helm with head coach Chris Miller at a wedding. “We moved a couple guys around a bit.

“We slowed it down the first half — our goal was to hold them to 0-0 at the half and maybe get one in the second half on something like a corner kick or free kick.”

Kreuser acknowledged that it’s been a frustrating season, especially after winning the conference last year.

“Luckily, the team morale is still high,” he said. “We’ve got good kids. They continue to work hard in practices.”

On Tuesday, the Elks will play at Maple Grove, and Rogers will host Monticello.