Friday was not the type of day that was easy to focus on sports.
It might have been easier just to forfeit, but the Dubuque Senior boys soccer team decided to play in memory of a classmate taken far too soon.
Jacob Konrardy, Nyle Jenkins, Kyle Konrardy and Ryan Connolly scored two goals apiece as the Iowa Class 3A No. 16-ranked Rams dominated Waterloo East, 10-0, on Friday night at Dalzell Field.
Normally a result like that would lead to a raucous celebration after the match. But, the night had begun with a somber tone. Sophomore Kellen Willis, a wrestler who played club soccer with several Rams, tragically passed away Thursday night.
“It was kind of a rough night tonight,” Jenkins said.
Senior held a moment of silence in honor of Willis, and the team wrote his initials on tape they wrapped around their wrists.
Rams coach Sam Koenig gave his players the option to forfeit the game and take the night off, or play in Willis’ memory. They overwhelmingly chose to play.
“Tonight was much bigger than just a soccer game, especially in the Dubuque community,” Koenig said. “This is just sports. Our guys wanted to play tonight in honor of Kellen, and it’s tough to be on the field after a really tough day. But I didn’t care how the game went tonight, to be honest with you, I just was happy to see our guys being able to play and be high school students.”
Wesley Jansen and Simon Burns also scored for Senior (9-4, 5-3 Mississippi Valley Conference), which clinched at least a .500 conference record for the first time in at least a decade.
The Rams have their most wins in a season since at least 2010 and have their most conference wins in any season over that stretch.
Senior closes the regular season on Tuesday against crosstown rival Hempstead before opening substate tournament action on Thursday. The Rams are seeking their first-ever state tournament berth.
“We have a really good chance at it,” Connolly said. “We’ve been playing pretty good all year. We have a pretty good team and I think we can go all the way.”
Jacob Konrardy and Jenkins scored both of their goals in the first half, and Kyle Konrardy and Jansen added scores as the Rams took a 6-0 halftime lead.
Kyle Konrardy scored just less than 3 minutes into the second half and Burns made it 8-0 just 2 minutes later. Connolly scored both of his goals in a span of 54 seconds midway through the second half, triggering the mercy rule with 19:27 remaining.