HUDSON — The Nordonia boys soccer team knew it was considered an underdog heading into Hudson Memorial Stadium Tuesday, but not an overwhelming one.
The Knights came in hoping to pull the upset and grab their first Suburban League National Conference win of the season.
Meanwhile, Explorers head coach Steve Knapp counseled his team to follow the first rule of dealing with underdogs: Score early and don’t give them hope.
Hudson came out firing and Nordonia came out flat, paving the way to the perfect start for the Explorers.
Hudson scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, leading the way to a decisive 5-1 win over the Knights. The Explorers improved to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the Suburban League National Conference, while Nordonia dropped to 3-3-2 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
Knapp lauded his team for jumping on the Knights early.
"That was kind of our emphasis," Knapp said. "I told them, ‘This is a good team. The longer we let them hang around, the more belief they’re going to have.’ Against Wadsworth, we were creating chances, but couldn’t find the goal. [Tuesday] we converted those chances."
Nordonia head coach Jason Stepp said there was little for his team to do but move on.
"We cam out flat," he said. "They penalized us for that and beat us in areas I thought were our strengths. We’re just going to have to build from this and see where we are."
Hudson found a lot of success down the wings against the Knights, as several of the Explorers’ goals came off crosses.
"We always try to play to the wide because of the field," Knapp said. "That’s our advantage here. I think by going wide, that opened up space for us in front [of the goal.]"
"I thought playing wide was one of our strengths," Stepp said. "I think what they did to us [in the midfield] before they went wide killed us."
Hudson’s first two goals came off square balls from the right side. In the third minute, junior Pete Strawbridge made a run along the end line before sliding a ball to a charging Skanda Moorthy, who put it home from close range.
Strawbridge had an excellent night, with two assists and a goal.
"Pete was special [Tuesday] because he just made the right decision every single time," Knapp said.
As for the Knights, the early goal was even more costly, as defender Sean Joyce suffered a hip injury during the play.
The Explorers doubled their advantage in the ninth minute on a square ball from defender Caleb Junko. Hudson’s Sean Durkin beat Nordonia goalie Zach Westbrooks to the ball and put it home just inside the post.
One minute later, Explorers’ captain Jarrett Widdoes made it 3-0, as he burst through the center of the Knights’ defense and smashed a shot into the roof of the net.
Nordonia was able to get a bit more possession after the first 10 minutes, but another brilliant run from Strawbridge made it 4-0 in the 26th minute.
Running across the penalty box, Strawbridge found senior Graham Alvarez cutting to the back post and Alvarez put it home.
Despite giving up five goals, Westbrooks might have been Nordonia’s best player. The goalkeeper made nine saves on the night and had several other interventions in the box.
Hudson finished with a 16-3 edge in shots on goal, as Durkin hit the post and the crossbar during the game.
With the Explorers subbing in players, Nordonia was able to get more possession in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
The Knights pulled one goal back just before halftime. In the 39th minute, Nordonia forward Tyler Edgehouse stole the ball along the right side and sent a high a shot over Hudson goalkeeper Stehan Yerian and into the upper right corner of the net.
Down 4-1 at the half, Stepp switched the Knights to a straight 4-3-3 in the second half, which he said allowed his team to play better possession soccer. However, Nordonia didn’t manage a shot on goal in the second half.
Meanwhile, Strawbridge capped the scoring in the 55th minute. A bouncing ball into the box took a deflection and eluded a charging Westbrooks.
Strawbridge got to the loose ball first and put it home to make it 5-1.
Hudson is scheduled to travel to Finney Stadium at Baldwin Wallace University Saturday at noon to face Berea-Midpark before traveling to North Royalton Sept. 17 at 9 p.m.
As for the Knights, Nordonia is set to visit Madison Saturday at 7 p.m. before hosting Stow-Munroe Falls Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.