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By Lisa Loomis
Harwood's number-five seeded varsity boys' soccer team trounced the number-two seeded team in the state this weekend, taking home the Division II championship in a 2-0 game on November 3.
The Highlanders played Mill River at Fair Haven High School. Going into the game Harwood's record was 12-3-2 and Mill River's was 16-1. Coach Don Haddox praised his team's teamwork and skill, noting that the first goal was scored after 26 minutes by Neal Smeltzer on a rebounded free kick from Steve Griffith.
The second goal was scored in the 46th minute by Chad Marino off an Eric Mackey throw in, he said, leading to Harwood's first state championship since 1988.
"We only allowed one goal through the whole play-off run," Haddox said.
Saturday's final featured fast play and strong defense on Harwood's part, and what Coach Haddox referred to as the team's great teamwork.
"Although I'd like to believe it's because I've coached them for the last four years, what makes this team strong is that they are a great group of team players. They are a much better team than they are a group of individuals and they really function as a team. They get along together great, whether on or off the field," Haddox said.
He said that 13 of the 25 players are seniors, and six of those are starters. Haddox played soccer in college and then played semi-professionally in Cleveland. He is an engineer when not coaching.
His coaching strategy with this team has been to focus on the technical skills.
"A full 50 percent of every practice is spent on the technical skills they've been working on since they were six years old such as passing a ball 10 feet. They can do it 90 out of 100 times, but I want them to do it 100 out of 100. That's what makes this team great; we can do the small things successfully most of the time," Haddox said.
"There are a lot of ways to succeed in soccer at the high school level and many are not conducive to teaching someone to play at the next level. I want kids to be able to play at the next level if they desire. Everything we teach can be used successfully at the collegiate and professional level," he explained.