Rockford heads to soccer playoffs this year with more scoring power

Rockford senior Chris Chavez has scored 29 goals this season, ranked second in the state. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)

by Dave Pedersen
Crow River News Sports

Chavez ranks second in the state in goals

When Rockford’s boys soccer team lost 1-0 to high section seed Monticello last season the team was without one of the top goal scorers in the state.

Last season Chris Chavez led the Rockets with 14 goals and seven assists, tops on the team in both categories. However, he was unable to play in the section game because he had to be at court as a witness to a car accident.

“It obviously hurt us,” said coach Steve Ulen about losing his All-Conference first team player. “There wasn’t anything Chris could do and his teammates understood that.”

When Rockford returned to the playoffs on Tuesday of this week, after this issue went to press, Chavez would lead the way ranked as the all-time goal scorer in school history.

Last week alone, Chavez scored nine goals to finish the regular season with 29, ranked first in the Wright County Conference and second in the state. He also ranks second in the league with 11 assists and seventh in the state.

Chavez now holds Rockford career records with 52 goals and 26 assists, accomplished in three seasons. More importantly, Rockford earned the No. 5 seed in the Section 6A tournament with a 12-3-1 record, the highest seed in school history.

Rockford opened section play at home for the first time in section play on Tuesday against Maranatha Christian Academy. Rockford won an earlier meeting 6-2. The winner plays at No. 4 Monticello or at home against No. 13 Central Minnesota Christian Thursday, Oct. 12.

Section semifinals are set for Oct. 14 and finals Oct. 17 at the home of the higher seed. Orono is the top section seed, followed by Mound-Westonka, Willmar and Monticello.

Rockford set a school record for wins at 12 and was 9-0 playing against non-conference teams. The Rockets beat five different teams that the program had never defeated.

Three years ago Rockford finished the season with a 1-15 record as young players were “thrown into the fire,” recalls Ulen. This year 13 seniors will graduate, many who were part of the re-building process.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” says Ulen. “We had our best year in school history. We would be a good team with or without Chavez, but with him he makes us very good. His teammates love him because he is so unselfish and just wants to be a part of the group.”

Ulen notes how Chavez could have scored 40-plus goals this season, but his coaching philosophy is that high school sports are about sportsmanship. He adds, “Get your win, but don’t run up scores just to pad stats. My players, especially Chris, have bought into that.”

Rockford won three more games last week. In the 4-0 victory over Legacy, Christian Chavez netted two goals. Lucas Botten scored his first varsity goal and Blake Young tallied the final goal. Miguel Ibarra assisted on three of the goals.

Ulen said defensive standouts were Carter DeWolfe, Zach Biese, Nick Manthana and Connor Cruz. Lucas Robinson earned the shutout in goal.

In the 7-2 triumph at Jordan Young scored the three-goal hat trick. Chavez had two goals and three assists. Christian Swanson and Spencer Hertle (his first varsity goal) capped off the scoring.

Chavez scored five goals in the 9-1 victory over Brooklyn Center when playing half the game. Cruz and Luis Ventura scored their first varsity goals, Swanson netted the other and Young added two assists.

Last summer Chavez played with some of his Latino teammates in an 8 v. 8 Mexican League based in Minneapolis.

Chavez says his team has done well because the many seniors have grown together and “are playing much better together than in the past.”

The center-midfielder played soccer in eighth-grade but did not play as a ninth-grader, deciding to concentrate on school work. Chavez returned as a sophomore after several friends asked him to play.

“My goals come out of nowhere,” says Chavez. “I don’t even think what I am doing. I just try to score. I also like to help my teammates score.”

Chavez learned a lot about the sport from his father who played soccer in Mexico and still plays in men’s leagues. The family settled in Rockford when Chris was in third grade.

This season Rockford played three teams that are in the section and was competitive. It lost 4-3 in overtime to top seed Orono. The Rockets tied No. 2 Mound-Westonka 1-1 and defeated No. 4 Monticello 5-2.

“Our expectation is to get to state,” says Ulen. “It’s very unusual as we have never even won a section game. But the expectations have changed this year in how we have played and the talent we have. We believe we are as good as anyone in the section.”