Just name any element of the West Fargo boys soccer team, and chances are that this year it's performing above and beyond.
From the defense to the offense and the midfielders in between, the Packers are beating nearly everyone they play and having a lot of fun along the way.
Since West Fargo last made the state tournament in 2005, the Packers likely haven't enjoyed being on the field like they are now. The team still hadn't lost to an EDC opponent at press time earlier this week, sporting a 4-0-2 league mark.
"In past years I'd be nervous, because I'd know we'd get trampled, and it'd be like, 'How close are we going to keep this game?,' said junior goalkeeper Braden Schmid. "It's way more fun now because I know that we can go out there and put up a good game, no matter who we play. Knowing we have a chance to win makes it a lot more fun."
It was plenty fun for the Packers last week with a pair of shutout conference wins. Second place West Fargo beat Grand Forks Red River 6-0 and followed it up with a 4-0 win over Fargo North.
Six different players scored on the road against the Roughriders, and four others scored against the Spartans. Schmid had 3 saves against Fargo North. West Fargo lost at Detroit Lakes last Saturday in a non-conference matchup in which the Packers played plenty of reserves.
"Now that the offense is playing a little bit better it certainly takes the pressure off the defense," said Packers coach Doug Millar. "It's been a transition thing - allow the defense to actually get in on some of that offense and contribute. Now we're playing confident."
Millar cites the transition game as a huge factor in the team's success this year. The Packers are 8-2-3 overall and have outscored opponents an impressive 49-12.
"The inside mids are taking us to the next level," said the coach. "We transition to offense really quickly."
Schmid, who has a better view than anyone from the net, said the Packer defense is playing at the top of its game despite the graduation of all-state defender Jason Moch.
"Our defense is really solid. They are the reason why we get wins with other teams scoring one or zero goals. Our defense usually doesn't let many people get past," said Schmid, adding that junior defensive leader Kody Duncan is having an outstanding year.
The Packers play a makeup game at Fargo Shanley, 2-3-1 in the EDC, on Saturday.
"The match against Shanley is a big one," said Millar. "Less than a week after that they're coming to our place. We need to make a statement, so that if nothing else then for that final match that we play [at first place Fargo South on Oct. 8] that we're either in a position where we can be the first, second or third seed. Or could there be more at stake? Could the EDC title be at stake?"
Millar reiterated that the team's No. 1 goal is to get back to the state tournament for the first time in four years.
West Fargo also plays a non-conference match tomorrow at Crookston.