LORDSTOWN - Even though Badger had already clinched its 10th consecutive Northeastern Athletic Conference boys soccer title, Lordstown still had something to play for on Thursday.
Not only did the Red Devils want to go into postseason play with a win, they also wanted to see how they measured up against one of the top programs in the area.
The Braves answered that question definitively, as they routed Lordstown 6-0 in coach Karl Martin's final regular-season game.
"It feels really good," Martin said of clinching the conference title. "It's a goal we have every year. We want to win our conference and we want to play well in the tournament. We talk about goals all the time.
"(Lordstown is) a good team. They've really improved tremendously this year. We had a lot of respect for them coming in. We knew we had to play hard and we did."
Lordstown coach Tim Malone said Badger's advantages in speed and sheer numbers of players was his team's downfall.
"We knew going in that Badger was going to be a much quicker team than we are," he said. "They're a senior-dominated team. We've been pretty much decimated by injuries and playing with 12 or 13 all year long."
Martin, who began as an assistant at Badger in 1993 and took over as head coach in 2001, has announced he will retire when the Braves' postseason is finished.
"It's really tough. I try and keep in touch with the guys," Martin said. "We have an alumni game every year. It's so great to see them come back. The two district championships has to stick out in my mind. This year was really special too. We lost seven seniors last year. A lot of people were saying we were going to rebuild, so this year's been really special, too."
Senior tri-captain Ben Meardith said this being Martin's last year is a big motivating factor for the Braves.
"It's a great amount of motivation," Meardith said. "Coach is the best guy I know. He's been there through everything with this team. He's more than a coach to each and every one of us.
"We knew had to get it for him. We couldn't let him go out on not winning the NAC. We did it for him and we did it for us."
Meardith wanted to make sure he and the Badger team sent Martin into the postseason with a victory. Meardith scored twice, once less than 10 minutes into the game and again 22 minutes in. On both goals he sent low shots past Lordstown goalkeeper Chris Whitfield. Meardith has 16 goals this season.
"Ben is one of those players you get once every four years," Martin said. "He's so smart. He knows the game inside and out. What a great leader and everyone on the team looks up to him. The way he goes is the way we go."
Rich Roscoe added a goal and two assists, and Taylor Matson, Jason Lipps and Kevin Casey each tallied a goal for the Braves (13-2-1, 11-1).
Jake Jones leads Lordstown (10-5-1, 8-3-1) with 34 goals, but was held off the scoreboard Thursday. He did create several scoring chances. In the second half, he took a shot that hit off the left goalpost. He also had a free kick that Badger's Scott Smith nearly knocked into his own goal, but keeper Jared Meikle made the stop. Meikle finished with a clean sheet and had nine saves for the Braves.
"He's a striker. If given the opportunity he can score on anybody," Malone said of Jones. "If we can get the ball to him, he can score on anybody. Unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity to get the ball to him."
Badger now begins another tournament run. With a first-round bye, the Braves will host either Berkshire or Gilmour Academy in a Division III sectional final on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m.
"I don't know a lot about Berkshire," Martin said. "Gilmour is an excellent team. They play in an area of the state that's noted for their soccer. They play with the likes of Hawken and a lot of really good soocer teams up there."