Cary-Grove's Mike McKune is the type of soccer player who doesn't care to mention how many goals he has scored, preferring instead to focus on his team's overall effort.
But opposing coaches don't hesitate to tout the senior center midfielder's value, particularly on a day like Wednesday when McKune scored on a free kick and led the defense by heading a dozen balls out of the box on corners and set pieces to lead the Trojans to a 2-0 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory at Huntley.
"McKune was turned on for 80 minutes," Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. "He put himself in a spot to win the game for them and, ultimately, he did. He did everything it took in their zone to win that game. To put yourself there and to constantly head the ball out over and over, you have to be switched on all the time. My respect goes out to him."
In a battle between two of the area's top boys soccer teams, Cary-Grove (13-0-2, 3-0) got the jump on Huntley (13-4-1, 2-2) when McKune blasted a free kick 25 yards into the Huntley net 15 minutes into the game.
The Trojans should have been leg weary, playing their sixth game in eight days, but they didn't look like a tired team three minutes later when they built a 2-0 lead on a pinball-esque goal by freshman Brett Schuerg.
That play began with a throw in from senior defender Steve Camporese. The ball squirted out of a scrum to Schuerg, who was aligned with the right post just inside the 18. He shot the bouncing ball quickly on the half volley. It deflected off the right post, the left post and into the net.
"I was thinking of hitting it with my left foot, but it came across on my right so I struck it with the outside of my foot," Shuerg said. "Then we just tried to possess it a lot more. The second half was rough. They were right on us the whole time."
Huntley made a good push in the second half and eventually outshot the Trojans 8-4, but Cary-Grove maintained its 2-goal lead throughout, thanks to the work of McKune, a solid group of defenders and a sensational save by keeper Kevin Schenk.
Schenk denied Huntley's best chance to get back in the game with 29:30 remaining. Huntley leading scorer Lucas Baker was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty kick. He blasted the ball to the right, but Schenk made a perfectly timed dive and blocked the attempt flush with two hands.
"I was trying to read it the best I can, and most of all just guess," Schenk said. "But I guessed the right way and came up big for my team. This was a big game. It always is every year. It's nice to beat Huntley."
Another Huntley near-goal was denied moments later. Cary-Grove senior defender Matt Arenberg booted away a ball near the goal line otherwise ticketed inside the post. The Trojans kept the Red Raiders away from their goal for most of the final 10 minutes to remain undefeated.
"It was our last game in a long stretch, so we knew we had to finish it off right," McKune said. "They're a good team. We knew if we got a win against this good team, we could keep it rolling."
Though Grabner didn't agree with the official's call that led to McKune's free-kick opportunity in the first half, he said the Red Raiders still shouldn't have allowed a goal in that situation.
"Ultimately, it falls on us," Grabner said. "We fall asleep on a dead ball like that? You can't do that. That's very disappointing that we're not fully switched on and doing what it takes to make sure that doesn't go in. Huge mistake.
"The second goal, I appreciate that (Schuerg) got a quick shot off, but that ball has no business going in the net. It didn't have any pace on it, but the keeper didn't react. I'm baffled at how that ball finds the net. We gave them 2 goals, and we couldn't finish even though we were all over them.
"We played well enough at times to win, but we didn't play 80 minutes to win. That's got to change."