Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Needing a win to lock up the Southwestern Conference championship, Westlake looked to set the tone early against Midpark.
Less than four minutes into the Saturday afternoon contest, the Demons began to do just that. And by the time the 10th minute ticked off the scoreboard clock, Nick Wertman and crew were well on their way to crossing one goal off their list.
Wertman scored four goals in that six-minute stretch, and the Demons went on to bring home a convincing 8-1 win over the Meteors. The win gave Westlake a final SWC record of 6-0-1 and it’s first league title since 2009.
“We had three goals this season,” said Westlake head coach Mike Besu after talking with his team. “One of them was to win the conference, the second was to win the district and the third was get to the regional final.
“One goal is out of the way. Hopefully we get a good seed in the tournament draw tomorrow, then we go for our second goal,” he said.
Westlake’s first goal of 2012 was reached early when Wertman went on his scoring spree. His first goal came with 36:06 left in the first half, with the second one coming at 34:55. He got the hat trick at 33:51, giving the Demons a commanding early lead as play continued in the Midpark third.
Wertman’s day ended early when Brian Sutcliffe found him for his fourth goal with 30:10 left in the half. Shortly thereafter, Besu pulled him from the game and began inserting subs into the lineup.
The Demons faltered a bit in the 14th minute when Kevin Albrecht got one past Westlake keeper Jamie Lacker. But later in the half, senior Mark Sutcliffe went on a scoring outburst of his own.
With 13:31 left in the half, Sutcliffe took a cross from Jack Bogart and zipped the ball past Midpark keeper Chris Telep for a 5-0 Demon lead. Sutcliffe struck again with two minutes left when he stole the ball in the backfield and scored.
Westlake scored two more goals in the second half, with the Demon bench getting significant playing time. An Omar Salem free kick led to a Brian Sutcliffe goal with 29:53 left, then brother Mark got a hat trick of his own at the 21:19 mark to close out the scoring.
“It was great. We knew we had to come out and work for the result we wanted,” Mark Sutcliffe said.
“We all got a chance and we got our bench in. The early lead was huge. Coach told us they had been scoring early in some of their games, so we knew we had to come out, get ready and score as quickly as we could,” Sutcliffe added.
“I’ve had a lot of memories here because they always give us a challenge,” said senior co-captain Sean Bigley. “This year, we came in with the mind set that we just couldn’t sit back and let them score.
“They’ve been scoring a few goals this year, so we knew they would score if we gave them a chance, and they did on that one goal,” Bigley said. “We came into this game knowing we had to come out hard and come ready, or they would give us problems.”
Bigley also said his teammates’ hard work throughout the season paid off.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “All the work we put in over the season, all the practices and extra practices we’ve been doing, all the running. It’s awesome to get the feeling that all of our work finally paid off,” he added.
“I’ve been waiting four years to win this,” admitted Wertman. “There have been plenty of good teams at Westlake that haven’t won it, and it just feels incredible. I love it. We’re the champions of our conference, and that’s something nobody can take away from us.”
Wertman knew his early scoring outburst was a big factor in his team’s good start.
“It kind of created that safety net for us right from the start,” Wertman said. “We wanted to come out and put the game away quickly. We accomplished that, but more importantly we got everybody into the game. We let everybody have a shot at playing in a special game, a conference-winnin game.
“And we’re not done. We still have a lot to go,” he added.
Despite the lopsided win on Saturday, Besu felt this year’s conference schedule was one of the toughest in recent years.
“This year was probably one of the most balanced conferences we’ve had the last four or five years,” Besu said. “We played good early, but there were a couple of games in the conference that were very close. Tuesday with Brecksville was a huge game.
“I thought the turning point this season was beating Avon Lake 3-0 at their field. That pretty much put us halfway home. But everybody was tough. There was the 1-1 tie at North Olmsted, Berea was tough, and Olmsted Falls had a good year. We couldn’t take anybody lightly.
“I’m happy with the way our kids played, and we’re the champions,” he added.