Sweeper Kevin Miller has been a key to the Cardinals' success this season.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's not a coincidence that Cardinal Mooney High junior soccer player Kevin Miller wears No. 1 on the back of his jersey.
Miller may not have scored a goal this season for the Cardinals (20-1-1), but Mooney wouldn't be playing in the state championship game Saturday without Miller's contributions.
His goal is simple -- the third-year starter seeks to make Mooney No. 1 on the field.
"Kevin leads the defense back there -- they've really kept us in many of the games that we've won and the closer games that we've won," Mooney coach Lenny Krispinsky said.
Helping set a record
If you search for Miller against Pataskala Watkins Memorial (20-2-1) at Columbus Crew Stadium, look for Mooney goalie, senior Jeff Seddon. Miller is right in front of him, playing the sweeper position.
Seddon has 12 shutouts, a school record. The previous record was 11, set by Tim Reigrut, the keeper on the 2002 state championship team.
"I clean up the mess on defense," Miller said. "When the defense does its job, it makes his [Seddon] job very easy."
The Cardinals have only allowed 17 goals in 22 games.
Miller was the keystone of a Mooney defense that blanked Richfield Revere 5-0 in the state semifinal game Tuesday.
Defense is key
Miller is one of several unsung heroes at Mooney; some players score the goals, but championship soccer teams are built on the shoulders of the defense.
"We were real prepared for what they had coming for us," Miller said of Revere.
Revere never mounted much of an attack against the Cardinals, who used fine midfield play to ignite the attack.
In turn, the midfielders were able to participate in the attack knowing an experienced defense was behind them.
"We stopped them where we had to stop them, time and time again," Krispinsky said of Revere.
"Every time they tried to generate an attack, the guys, either in the midfield or in the defense, stepped up and minimized the pressure on Jeff."
Miller also played sweeper when Mooney defeated Columbus St. Francis DeSales 2-1 in overtime for the 2002 state crown.
While he admits he's most comfortable at the unglamorous sweeper position, Miller has become accustomed to winning.
Mooney has a combined 60-5-2 record in his three seasons.
Next year he's willing to move to midfield or even to forward where he could score a few goals.
Whatever it takes to keep Mooney No. 1.