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Tad Tinker (2) was among newcomers who helped Cheney return to the State 2A playoffs. (Dan Pelle)

Cheney reloaded after winning soccer title

As the thrill of last year’s state title gave way to the hard work of a new season, Cheney boys soccer coach Mark Kiver wasn’t worried.

“I just try to put the players in the right spots,” Kiver said. “I don’t have to tell them.”

Even after losing six starters and most of his defense from a year ago, Kiver got the Blackhawks back in familiar territory: the State 2A playoffs.

And although they wanted more – their season ended with 1-0 loss to Othello on Wednesday in the opening round – the Blackhawks put up a dominating performance this season.

Cheney scored 62 goals in Great Northern League play this year, but gave up just three. That came despite a new goalkeeper and two new starters on defense.

All were sorely tested in a season-opening 4-0 loss to Ferris, but the top-ranked Blackhawks (15-2-1) didn’t lose again until Wednesday.

“That’s why we play those teams – they show us what our weaknesses are,” said Kiver, whose team rebounded with a 2-2 tie with Lewis and Clark and a 5-0 rout of Mead.

Was it easy? No, but Cheney’s deep program has been reloading for years.

“We have smart, talented players, and we know they will sacrifice for the team,” Kiver said.

Even when they’re no longer on the team: Former goalkeeper Joe Scott is serving as a volunteer coach for his replacement, junior Kam Galm.

“It’s a been all growing experience, but I wouldn’t be where I am without Joe Scott,” said Galm, whose playing style is less aggressive than Scott’s but offset by a 6-foot-2 inch frame and his desire “to be the loudest guy out there.”

“We’re all brothers out there,” said Galm, who meant that literally as well as figuratively: Older brother Cruz was an all-Great Northern League defender last year, and along with fellow senior Taylor Scharff anchored the defense this season. Newcomers Spencer Yeager, Ian Shirey and Tad Tinker also contributed.

“My role is just get our players set up and getting them going,” Cruz Galm said.

Tough defense and a good possession game have led to many quick counterattacks, helping forward Ian Schimandle set a GNL record with 29 goals. Attacking midfielder Trevan Estrellado has 15 more and midfielder Micah Weller has another eight.

The Blackhawks also stepped up when it mattered most: In four postseason games, they scored 15 goals and gave up just two.

“The young guys really stepped up,” Weller said.