In only the first full week of April, they celebrated Senior Day on the soccer field Tuesday afternoon at Cheney High School.
“It was a little weird but it turned out to be a nice day,” senior captain Carson Lamphere said.
And after a 7-0 win over Colville, the Blackhawks were almost ready to celebrate another league championship.
A couple of tough matches remain against Pullman and East Valley, but the Cheney boys are almost there despite losing a lot of talent from last year’s State 2A runner-up.
Even at a top program like Cheney, reloading isn’t a foregone conclusion.
“I wasn’t sure we’d be in the position that we are right now,” third-year head coach Mark Kiver said.
Despite the loss of seven lettermen and four starters, there was talent waiting in the wings – literally. Outside fullbacks Cruz Gam and Taylor Scharff have moved to central defense in front of senior goalkeeper Joe Scott, who’s conceded only two goals in eight Great Northern League matches; those came in 4-1 and 10-1 wins over GNL rival Deer Park.
“It can get a little boring back there sometimes,” said Scott, who spent much of Tuesday’s match up front after the Blackhawks (8-0 in the GNL and 9-2 overall) took a 5-0 halftime lead.
“It’s a whole new defense, but they’ve coped right away,” Scott said. “It was really my job to get them focused, working as a unit in the back.”
As far as Kiver is concerned, “Joe has been huge, but that’s been the unfortunate thing: You don’t notice him because he’s not facing that many shots.
“But when you have teams get the ball in the back and there’s a momentary lack of focus, we can really rely on him.”
Up front last year, the Blackhawks counted on the 1-2 punch of Forester Seipp and C.J. Skillingstad; this year the attack is more balanced. Junior midfielders Trevan Estrellado and Ian Schmandel have eight goals each and classmate Micah Weller has five.
Another junior, Ian Shirey, has four goals; three other players have two apiece.
“Everyone’s playing a key role in getting the attack forward,” Weller said. “Last year we were quite the possession team, but this year we have a lot of skilled guys and our goals are coming from everywhere.”
After early 2-0 losses to 4A powers Mead and Lewis and Clark – “We always try to play those games to see how we measure up,” Kiver said – the midfield began to come together.
“Micah’s doing a tremendous job and Treven is finding the best fit and where he plays best out there,” Kiver said.
The big goal, of course, is a state title. The Blackhawks were unbeaten last year until falling 3-1 to Fife in the state title game.
“We’re getting there,” Kiver said.