As Isaac Ward sees it, you can't score the perfect goal without the perfect pass.
Ward, a senior midfielder for the Pleasant Valley boys soccer team, took care of the perfect pass part. His Spartan teammates then finished off a few of Ward's offerings during a 4-0 win over Assumption in Mississippi Athletic Conference action Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
Ward also had a goal with his two assists and probably could have had three or four more assists as he led a PV attack that simply overwhelmed a shorthanded Knights team. Pleasant Valley had 21 shots on goal during the contest, and if it had been cleaner with their finishes, could probably have scored a few more.
But it did not take too much away from an impressive outing from the fourth-ranked team in Class 3A that won its 12th game in a row while also staying a half-game in front of Bettendorf with a 7-0 mark in the MAC.
Zach Morel, who latched onto a Ward chip pass over the top of Assumption's defense in the 33rd minute for PV's first tally, said Ward really makes any scoring opportunity easy. Morel had a defender all over him but the location and weight of the pass allowed Morel to simply get his foot on the ball to get it past Knights goalkeeper Gaige Ash from 15 yards out.
"We really just work everything off of (Ward), we build our tempo around him and he just sets us up for a lot of really good opportunities," Morel said. "You always know that he has an entire vision of the field so even when he is not looking at you, he always is able to find you somehow and set you up. He gets the ball and you know that you can make that backside run (which Morel did on his goal) and know the ball is going to be there."
For his part, Ward said it was years of experience and hundreds of hours of practice to understand the scoring situations.
"When I don't have the ball, I just look to see what is going on around me," Ward said. "I am always trying to see one step ahead of the play and thinking about what I want to do. I spent a lot of time with my three brothers just kicking balls off the wall in the basement, to get a good feel for things."
A defensive error by Assumption in the 44th minute allowed Ward a free run from 20 yards out and his low ground shot beat Ash to the right corner to make it 2-0. The Knights scored an own goal in the 60th minute to make it 3-0 and Ward finished off his night a minute later.
That time he blasted a centering pass from the right wing in the air that caught teammate Jack Thompson sprinting toward the goal. Thompson was about six yards out and just had to stick his foot out after sliding to finish off the play.
Assumption coach Greg Zeller gave credit to how Ward was able to set up his teammates.
"When he is hitting those pinpoint passes," Zeller said, "it's going to be tough for anybody to stop him."
Ash made 11 saves for Assumption (5-11, 2-6 MAC) and the effort by defenders Jordan Kent, Nicholas Burkhart, Austin Andresen, Jack McAfoos and Mason Ollinger did their best to keep PV at bay. Jack McIntosh, Franz Sirna and Anthony Broggini played hard on the offensive end but the visitors only managed two shots on goal for the game. Still, Zeller said there were some positives to take out of the effort.
"We played good for as many people that we had out," Zeller said. "We had people with the flu, out with concussions and other injuries. I thought we actually put up a pretty good fight for the situation. We put some guys in off the bench and put them in odd positions and they played hard. We got to see some good work out of them."