Through the first seven games this season, defense has been the name of the game for Pleasant Valley.
After surrendering a penalty kick goal in the first game of the season, the Spartans have posted six straight shutouts, including a 3-0 win over Davenport Central Monday at Spartan Stadium.
"We've been working hard in practice staying together, staying compact, we all feel very comfortable with each other," sophomore center back Jack Roemer said. "We know whenever pressure's coming back there, we trust each other enough to be able to step up."
Central was the latest victim, mustering just four shots as the Class 3A No. 14 Spartans controlled possession throughout the match.
"Roemer is incredible, he reads the game really well and he's really smart. He never steps if he knows he can't make an interception or a tackle and they're just so smart with the ball," Central head coach Sean Harkness said. "I think they defend well with the ball, more than anything. They use the ball so well their defense is never under pressure and when they are under pressure, they are just so smart at working together."
PV (6-1, 3-0 MAC) unleashed constant pressure right from the start and turned that pressure into a 1-0 lead. Isaac Ward took the ball off the foot of a Central defender and fired a shot past Central keeper Damien Burtle in the 12th minute.
Freshman Bryce Rubel upped the lead to 2-0, burying a cross from Rhys Ward in the 25th minute for his fourth goal of the season.
"I saw (Rhys) dribbling down the sideline and I didn't see anyone in the middle so I cut across the end line and saw the ball and tapped the ball, hoping it would go in," Rubel said. "Every game, our confidence is getting higher and higher, we're realizing we can achieve more things as the games progress."
Jacob Holland finished the scoring with a penalty kick in the 36th minute, his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Central (5-3, 2-2) had a three-game winning streak snapped and has to rebound quickly with a road game Thursday against Assumption.
"They just smothered us pretty early and were able to dictate the game to us," Harkness said. "We kind of see now the level we need to be at in six weeks. ... We at least know where we need to reach, who we're going to need to beat."
Pleasant Valley now owns wins over perennial power Bettendorf as well as Central, the only team to beat the Spartans in conference play last year. Though they're in good position in the MAC race, there will still be tests, games against North Scott and Davenport North still to come.
"We know we've got the tactics, we've been working a lot on the Xs and Os but we've really been working hard on the intensity level, the work ethic, the attitude and the effort," PV assistant coach Andrew Piotter said. "If we can continue to ride the wave we're on right now and build each day, that's when we'll see the results we want."
Piotter is a 2009 graduate of Pleasant Valley and knows the struggles that have always hit the Spartans down the stretch, preventing them from reaching the state tournament. So while PV may have a bit of cushion in the conference race, Piotter knows too well it's too early to feel in control.
"It's a long season. As a player myself several years ago, we thought we had it under control and it backfired against us," he said. "I think we've learned that lesson at PV, we don't really take anything for granted since we haven't had that state berth. Knowing that's in our sights, we definitely don't want to take that for granted."