Family. It was the last word that this year’s Western Dubuque boys soccer team said breaking from the team huddle after losing to Bettendorf, 8-0, in its substate semifinal match-up in Bettendorf May 22.

“This looked and felt like any number of games that we had played this season. We gave up an early goal, toughened up and played with them for a while and then they found a way to run away from us,” said Cliff Conrad, head coach of the Bobcats. “We knew coming into this that Bettendorf is a good team, but we didn’t play up to our standards tonight. We got sucked into a few things that were happening on the field and let the game get away from us in the second half.”

Bettendorf (12-2) jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Alec Lank scored a goal in the opening moments. After that, the Bobcats’ quickly settled into the game but were mainly playing defense as they struggled to mount an offensive charge against the talented Bulldogs.

Cole Burger and the Bobcats’ back end kept Bettendorf from extending that lead until Gabby Elias got free in front of the goal to take a 2-0 advantage with 12:19 left in the first half. That goal got things going for Bettendorf as they scored five more times in just over 18 minutes as they stretched the lead to 7-0.

“It was great having extra time with the guys after the win over Hempstead, but now it’s up to them. I laid the challenge out to them not to make this be the last time they touch a soccer ball until open gyms in January,” said Conrad. “They will have to put in some work if they are willing to do what it takes to make sure we get back to this point or even do one better or further next year.”

The Bobcats finished their first year under Conrad with a record of 3-16. However, during the season they did display some moments that give the coach cause to think that they are capable of doing so much more if they become disciplined and play with a love for the game.

“They’ve shown this year that they can play good soccer. They’ve also shown that they can accept coaching and that was one of the better things they’ve done this year as they took on a totally different system,” said Conrad. “We need to work on the energy a bit and playing with passion.”