MONMOUTH — Joe Fletcher feels like his Monmouth Academy boys soccer program might be ahead of schedule, but senior Hunter Richardson isn’t surprised that his Mustangs will play for the Class C state championship today at 5:30 p.m. against Washington at Hampden Academy.

“Coach may feel this is coming a little early, but since my freshman year I knew with some of my best friends in our class and the class right behind us that we were filled with talent and plenty of athletes — not just in one sport, but in all sports,” Richardson said. “I knew that by my senior year we’d be contenders in all three sports (soccer, basketball and baseball).

“This year, we really competed, we worked hard and our chemistry is phenomenal.”

Richardson naturally defers to chemistry, as evidenced by his play on the field. A 20-goal scorer as a junior, Richardson dropped back into central midfield this season where he was tasked with being more of a presence in possession. His goal production dropped significantly, but the way in which he has impacted games rose exponentially.

“Hunter has always been a key component to our development,” Fletcher said of the four-year starter. “He’ll do anything for betterment of the team. He knows that he doesn’t need goals for the team to be successful, and he does a great job of controlling the midfield for us. He distributes the ball, and defensively he’s always in the mix. He’s the epitome of a team player.”

Richardson said that he’s actually more comfortable in the role he’s in now, where he’s helping build into the attack from a deeper position. With junior Avery Pomerleau and senior Mat Foulke serving as the featured strikers, Richardson is happy to let them carry the scoring load.

“They have the talent and I trust them,” Richardson said. “I can set them up. I love the role. I actually prefer it.”

Built on a foundation featuring a large junior class, Monmouth is a tight-knit group. After going 11-1-2 in the regular season, there are plenty of strengths on this team. Thw Mustangs can certainly score goals (57 of them entering the weekend), but they are also equally adept at being defensively-oriented when they have to be.

In the Class C South final on Wednesday, Monmouth pulled out a 1-0 decision in which the only goal of the match was an own-goal from Lisbon. In three playoff games, the Mustangs have conceded only one time.

Skills and hard work only get you so far at this time of year, Richardson said. The fact that so many on the Mustangs roster compete in multiple sports, most of them with one another from season to season, is an intangible which has served Monmouth very well.

“Any team, especially come playoff time, any team is working hard,” he said. “It’s really hard to say that you can work harder than others. Everyone wants the same goal. What really puts us over the top is our team chemistry.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC