Badger embracing role of underdog against Hawken

While nobody on this year’s Badger and Hawken teams played the last time the two schools met in the postseason, Colton Kellogg and his fellow seniors understand the history between the two teams.

Many of those seniors watched the 2007 and 2008 Division III regional semifinals, when the Hawks blasted the Braves by 6-0 and 5-0 scorelines, respectively, stopping two Badger teams that had 17-win seasons and one team that was undefeated before the match.

Badger and Hawken meet for Round 3 in another regional semifinal tonight at Brunswick High School, and Kellogg said he and his teammates are ready for it.

“Most of us were in middle school,” Kellogg said. “We witnessed a couple of the games. We know what we have going in, and I think we know what they have going in. It should be a good game.”

Like the past two times, the Braves (16-1-1) go into the match as the underdogs, and it’s understandable why, considering Hawken’s history.

Since 2000, the Hawks (11-7-1) have won nine district championships, seven regional championships and a state title in 2000 and finished as state runners-up five times. One of those five runners-up titles came last season. In the 2013 district tournament, Hawken beat its three opponents by a combined 16-3, showing this year’s version is no slouch.

Badger seems to revel in the underdog role heading into the match.

“Going into the game, everybody’s going to be looking at us as the underdog,” Kellogg said. “This is the farthest our team has ever made it in our short period of time having soccer here, so going into the regional game, we don’t have a whole lot to lose – they have everything to lose.”

The Braves face other challenges, including dealing with a turf playing surface, but the players and coach Justin Deraway don’t seem too concerned, despite the fact the team hasn’t played a match on a turf field all season.

“As a team that plays on grass 99 percent of the time, it is a little harder for us to switch,” senior goalkeeper Jared Meikle said. “We’re going to be ready for faster balls, quicker touches – all that. We’re going to stress the fundamentals to better prepare ourselves.”

Another aspect of the game the Braves will stress comes on defense, an area in which they excelled. Badger allowed just 10 goals against all season, recording 12 clean sheets. Only two teams managed to put more than one goal into the Badger net – Lakeview (a 4-0 loss on Aug. 24) and fellow Division III district champion South Range (a 2-2 tie on Sept. 28).

Stopping the Hawks will be crucial, Deraway said, especially with two strikers – Graham Duff and Kevin Harkey – finally healthy after struggling through injuries during the regular season.

“Our defense is going to have to hold up,” Deraway said. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. If we want to be able to be a regional champion, we’re going to have to play great defense (tonight).”

Although Hawken provides a tough matchup for Badger, the Braves won’t settle for just making it to the regional-stage, Kellogg said.

“One big question we’ve asked each other all year is, ‘What are you content with?’ ” he said. “At this point, I think it’s a good thing to ask ourselves, ‘Are you content with winning a district championship, being a No. 1 seed or do you want to move on, shock the state?’

“Let’s show them who we are.”