Without hesitation, Century boys soccer coach Hal Houghton says he has never had a team with this much talent.
Houghton has been coaching the Panthers the last 12 years.
"These guys are just really good," Houghton said after his team blasted Austin 6-0 on Tuesday in a Big Nine Conference match. "They make some of the things they do just look so easy. There is a lot of talent there. It's the most I've ever had since I've been coaching."
Century, ranked No. 9 in Class AAA, moved its record to a spotless 6-0. Austin — lacking some of the depth and immense talent it possessed in recent years — slipped to 1-3-2.
The Panthers wanted this game badly. Austin had mostly owned it the last bunch of seasons. Century did manage a 1-1 tie with the Packers last year, but it had buried the Panthers plenty over the years, including a 9-0 drubbing in 2016.
"It was nice to get Austin back this time," said Century star Max Comfere, who finished with three goals and now has eight on the season.
Comfere accounted for the game's only score in the first half. Century managed that slim 1-0 lead despite having dominated those first 40 minutes, outshooting Austin 7-2.
But a halftime discussion left the Panthers hungry to dominate. They went from just missing opportunities to suddenly cashing in on just about everything. Starting with a goal by Comfere at 35:46 of the second half, the senior finishing off a long team combination with the ball, Century scored three goals in 2 minutes.
Noah Gjervik, who had a terrific two-goal, two-assist night, had Century's second goal in that span, taking advantage of a discombobulated Austin defense. Abdirisak Bulale then knocked in a rebound shot after Noah Oachs had tested Austin goalie Dan Mitchell with a shot of his own.
By then, the game was completely in hand, Century leading 4-0. Gjervik and Comfere would later finish the scoring.
It was Century's fifth shutout in six games. The Panthers have allowed just one goal all season, and that one was a penalty kick by Owatonna.
If Century was out to prove a point Tuesday, it had done it. It's been doing that all season.
"Every team that beat us or tied us last year, we are coming for revenge," Century star midfielder Rivaldo Pena said. "We are playing well, moving the ball and playing with passion."
The Panthers are also playing with a loaded deck. And it's not just his starters who Houghton says make this team what it is. It is also a bunch of talented substitutes who he says would be likely starters most any other year. Their constant push at practices, Houghton insists, has taken this team to a new level.
"Those guys might not even get into some games," Houghton said. "But that doesn't mean they're not making a big contribution to what we're doing."
Century 6, Austin 0
Austin 0 0 -- 0
Century 1 5 -- 6
Austin: Goalie: Dane Mitchell 11 saves.
Century: Max Comfere 3 goals; Abdirisak Bulale 1 goal, 1 assist; Noah Gjervik 2 goals, 2 assists; Noah Oachs 1 assist; Rivaldo Pena 1 assist; Jay Whitney 1 assist. Goalie: Charlie Odell 3 saves.