Keegan Chastey limped off Bromberg Field with a pained expression on his face after Cloquet-Esko-Carlton throttled his Duluth Denfeld team 11-0 in a midseason stunner.
The idea of leading the Hunters to a Section 7A boys soccer title in his senior season grew faint after losses to Duluth East, CEC and Grand Rapids and an unimpressive 1-1 tie in the regular-season finale against Hermantown, a team Denfeld had beaten 8-0 before Chastey sprained his right ankle.
Entering the playoffs as a No. 8 seed with a gimpy star midfielder, Denfeld faced long odds to win a section title.
But in the vein of great athletes who will their teams to victory, Chastey was undaunted by the task and, taped ankle and all, guided the Hunters to four consecutive playoff wins, knocking off the same teams — Hermantown, unbeaten CEC and Grand Rapids — that had made their path more difficult, before downing Princeton 2-1 in the final.
“He definitely put the team on his shoulders,” Denfeld coach Scott Anderson said.
That performance, along with his season totals of 20 goals and 11 assists, earned Chastey a second consecutive News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year honor.
Chastey didn’t shy away from any leadership responsibilities.
“Throughout the last number of years there’s been an expectation of what I can give to the team, but I feel that I can thrive under that,” he said. “I like feeling responsible for the whole team. I really enjoy the leadership role, it’s something that I embrace. The whole team, at times, could look up to me to see that drive and will to win. Especially it being my senior season, I didn’t want to end it without achieving that goal.”
Anderson equates Chastey’s on-field presence with that of a football quarterback.
“The way he handles himself on the field makes everyone else better; it was something the boys looked forward to,” Anderson said. “He took control of games with his directions. We talk about playing in the future. Before you even get the ball, know what you are going to do with it and know what’s happening on the field. He had a knack for it.”
Anderson, who just completed his 26th season as head coach, knew what he had coming before Chastey was even eligible to play on varsity. Anderson had the son of St. Scholastica men’s soccer coach Barry Chastey as a sixth-grade student in advanced math class at Lincoln Park Middle School.
“One of his first questions was, ‘Seventh graders can try out, right?’ ” Anderson recalled.
The final year of Chastey’s five seasons on varsity was definitely the oddest as the COVID-19 pandemic made playing uncertain.
“The whole year was different than any of my previous years,” Chastey said. “At times it was cool to have different routines than the past five years, but we had to make sure we were doing everything right to allow us to play with COVID and then we were unsure if our season would end throughout the year.
“For me, personally, I was on fire for quite a few games in a row, then we lost a game to Cloquet badly and I go down hurt in that game. That moment was an ‘uh-oh’ moment for me and likely for the team as well. Luckily, we bounced back for playoffs and pulled together as a team.”
Chastey, who totaled 67 goals and 67 assists in high school, has not yet committed to play at a four-year university. COVID-19 has made recruiting more difficult, especially by not allowing on-campus visits, delaying Chastey’s search.
He will, however, begin his college career this spring by playing for his father at St. Scholastica. He is taking Postsecondary Enrollment Options at Denfeld, which gives him college credits. He plans to be a full-time student at St. Scholastica for the semester.
“I’m excited for the spring season and my first go at college soccer,” Chastey said. It should be a good test and a lot of fun.”
And playing for his dad?
“I’m sure he will be hard on me like he has for the last 16 years,” Chastey joked.