SHELBY — Shelby has focused on West Michigan Conference powers North Muskegon and Whitehall all off-season. Last Wednesday night, the Tigers showed off the results of that focus.
Shelby dominated the injury-plagued Vikings, scoring six first-half goals and winning 9-1. In the process, the Tigers became the first West Michigan Conference foe to ever mercy-rule the Vikings since they became an all-boys program 25 years ago.
“We knew it’s always Whitehall and North Muskegon,” Shelby coach Jairo Coronado said. “It’s always them. Since the very first time we started conditioning together in the summer, we knew our goals. We knew what we needed to do. We had our goals right away. We knew we had to work harder and harder. We set the standards very high last season, and we knew we had to beat North Muskegon and Whitehall.”
The Tigers came out on a mission, scoring four times in an eight-minute span early in the first half. Joseph Hayes got things started with a beautiful shot to the top right corner of the net, and Ricardo Bahena scored less than a minute later. Riley Garcia got the third goal on a corner-kick assist from Gabriel Gonzalez, and Harrison Jenkins capped the blitz with a goal of his own.
Jenkins went on to score three goals in the win, and six other Tigers each got on the board once. An ability to get goals from all over the lineup was a hallmark of Shelby’s impressive district championship run a year ago, and the Tigers have picked up where they left off.
“It doesn’t matter who scores,” Coronado said. “We work as a team. We have that chemistry. We’re going to keep moving the ball around and pass, run, pass, run. Just keep that going. It worked so well, especially in the first half.
“We knew what we needed to do to win these types of games. Today, we did everything that was in our hands.”
Shelby (4-2-1, 1-0 WMC) added two more goals before halftime — a Whitehall own-goal and a wicked shot from Jenkins that deflected off the Vikes’ keeper and into the net — and led 6-0 at the break.
The blistering scoring pace slowed down a bit in the second half, and Whitehall managed to get on the board, which was the only disappointment Shelby suffered in the game.
“We don’t like it when they score,” Coronado said. “We think we have a talented defense. We don’t want anybody to score on us. But I loved that they stepped up and instead of saying, ‘Oh, they’re going to keep scoring,’ they calmed down and said, ‘Let’s get it together and they’re not going to score anymore,’ and it worked. I’m so proud of every single one of them.”
Jenkins scored again early in the half on a terrific hustle play — he beat the Whitehall keeper to a loose ball by the goalpost and was actually holding onto the post as he scored the goal. His brother Ryan Jenkins floated a shot over the keeper’s head and in the net for the team’s eighth goal, and Christian Peterson finished the game with his own goal, a flourish that sent the Tigers on to the field to celebrate one of the program’s most notable victories.
“Against these kinds of teams we have to stay focused every single minute,” Coronado said. “In the second half, we probably relaxed a little bit and we got tired. It’s part of the game. But we kept moving the ball around with good passes. We were able to match them.”
With this victory in the rear view, the Tigers will have to wait a while to take on the other half of the two teams they’ve prepared for since the summer — the North Muskegon game isn’t until Sept. 28. Shelby’s dominant five-game win streak, though, shows a team prepared to maintain its form until then.
“We did one of the jobs, but now we have to move on to work hard to win the next game,” Coronado said. “Every conference game is going to be a final for us.”