Jess McHargue knows it’s a cliché. He just doesn’t know any other way.
So the Lexington head coach takes them one match at a time. And if you need proof, just try to ask him about the upcoming week, a potentially big one for the Minutemen.
“I don’t look that far ahead,” he said. “The most important game is the one they’re putting the uniform on for that night.”
His Lexington team rose to No. 2 in Class B this week after a strong 5-0 start to the season. Included were wins over Omaha Westside — Class A’s second-ranked team — and an Omaha Skutt team that is annually a Class B contender.
“Couldn’t really ask for a better start,” McHargue said.
The Minutemen have qualified for the state tournament eight of the past nine seasons, winning matches in three of those trips.
But it was the 4-2 win over Westside and 1-0 victory against Skutt on back-to-back days earlier this month that turned heads. The “Omaha Tour,” as McHargue calls it, got things off on the right foot.
“We didn’t really get to celebrate that victory that long,” McHargue said of the win over Westside. “The guys answered the call against Skutt. That was our third game in three days. Grit and heart were the only things that were going to see us through. They just flat bought in.”
There might not be a better example of that than forward Lester Perez. The junior already has 12 goals — including three hat tricks — and a pair of assists in just five matches. He’s had a hand in 14 of the 24 Lexington scores.
He scored the lone goal against Skutt, the only time he’s been held with fewer than two goals.
Perez moved from a defensive holding midfield position from a season ago and has flourished up front.
“He had a great offseason, and that’s carried over,” McHargue said. “He’s like a silent assassin. He has no emotion. He kind of keeps to himself. But in our program he is the definition of grit.”
A core group of 10 juniors returned this season for Lexington. Add in a senior-dominated midfield and senior keeper — players who were a part of McHargue’s first Minutemen team — and you have experience that has paid off.
Westside coach John Brian said his team had troubles matching up with more than just Perez.
“They were big, physical and played direct,” Brian said. “They came right at us.”
It’s a mentality that McHargue said is the backbone of his program.
“We don’t really fear anyone,” he said. “We just work hard and go from there.”
There are more chances for high-profile wins this week. Matches Thursday against North Platte and Tuesday at Kearney will test the Minutemen. Both conference foes are unbeaten, with Kearney up to No. 5 in the Class A ratings.
Just don’t expect too much analysis about it from McHargue.
“Guys are just ready,” he said. “We’re excited.”