LAPORTE | It’s been more than 10 years since Danny Jeftich has promoted a freshman to the Valparaiso boys soccer varsity squad.
Nate Dawson wasted little time Wednesday night showing how thankful he was for the opportunity.
Dawson ripped a shot from 25 yards out in the 70th minute to give the Vikings a 1-0 victory over LaPorte in Valparaiso’s season opener.
Teammates mobbed Dawson at mid-field as the freshman tried to savor every bit of the moment.
“I came into my first game just so nervous and not really knowing what to expect,” Dawson said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play, what role it would be.
"It’s really just hard to put this all into words.”
Dawson was always going to play. Jeftich doesn’t promote freshmen just to have them sit on the bench. The midfielder got the call in the second half and made the most of his early opportunity.
“I saw him in tryouts and I knew that he was a special kid,” Jeftich said. “It’s been a long time since we had a freshman on the varsity. Not since my son Danny and Pat Rickman and (Hunter) Van Houten.”
Dawson’s goal broke a deadlocked game that featured plenty of chances for the Vikings with little success.
Valparaiso outshot LaPorte 14-3, but only had a handful of real opportunities at a score. Five minutes prior to Dawson’s goal, senior forward Yamen Atassi drilled a shot that bounced off the top of the crossbar.
“We dominated possessions and played well, but this is a dangerous team,” Jeftich said of LaPorte. “We continued to play our ground game and didn’t get rattled.”
LaPorte sophomore Carter Huber had 11 saves in the goal and made several more plays in which the keeper cut off passes that were meant to setup additional shots.
“We have three really good keepers in our program right now and Carter, as a sophomore, is at the top of the heap,” LaPorte coach Chris Buresh said.
“He’s a very good talent and did a great job at collecting the crosses and limiting their chances at more shots.”