Written By: Rick Weegman | Nov 19th 2019 - 6pm.
(Taken from Duluth News Tribune)
Duluth Denfeld's Keegan Chastey and Cloquet-Carlton's Kiana Bender, the News Tribune's All-Area Players of the Year for soccer, pose for a portrait. (Tyler Schank / email@example.com)
Keegan Chastey’s exposure to soccer came at an early age.
Being the oldest son of an English-born, Liverpool-mad soccer coach meant Chastey watched English Premier League games when he was still in a baby carrier and he kicked around a soccer ball since he could first walk.
“He probably saw more games of football before he was 7 or 8 than most people do their entire life,” said his father, Barry Chastey, who emigrated from Devon in southwestern England about 20 years ago and has been the men’s soccer coach at St. Scholastica the past 15 years.
That exposure, and ensuing love of the sport, was transferred onto the field for the Duluth Denfeld junior, who is the News Tribune’s 2019 All-Area Player of the Year.
Chastey scored 24 goals and added 14 assists this fall in leading the Hunters to the Section 7A championship game. He already has a school-record 49 assists in his career.
But more than the statistics, Chastey displays an innate knowledge of the game. He always seems to be one step ahead of his opponents whether the ball is at his feet or whether he is angling for an advantageous spot on the field.
“What separates him the most up here in this area, I would say, is his understanding of the game and his awareness of what is going on,” Barry Chastey says.
It’s something Denfeld coach Scott Anderson saw in the younger Chastey soon after he first met him at age 5 or 6, when he was juggling a ball at the Blaine (Minn.) Sports Center.
“I was thinking, ‘This kid has some talent,’ ” Anderson said. “I was kind of happy when he showed up at my sixth-grade classroom (at Lincoln Park Middle School) and he asked me, ‘Seventh graders can try out, right?’ ”
Anderson, who recently completed his 25th season coaching the Hunters, compares Chastey to that of the leader of another brand of football.
“It’s the way he scans the field and reads the game. He can tell people if he wants the ball at his feet or if he wants the ball ahead of him to run onto him,” Anderson said. “He’s like a quarterback who is in charge of the game.”
Keegan Chastey has traveled throughout the United States attending soccer camps and playing games and has attended several Liverpool matches at their home pitch
“I’ve been watching Liverpool since I was 5 with my dad and it was special to see them live. That was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life,” the 16-year-old said.
But, Chastey says, his passion for soccer isn’t because his father pushed him into it.
“I just do it because it’s my favorite thing to do,” he said.
Chastey has started every game for Denfeld since eighth grade and was named Anderson’s first junior captain in more than a decade.
“His passion, his drive, everything about him is soccer,” Anderson says.
Being the lone holdover from the year before meant Chastey was relied upon to not only provide scoring punch but also provide leadership to an inexperienced unit.
That lack of experience helped contribute to an 0-3 start with defeats by six, four and three goals. But in time, in part due to Chastey’s guidance, the Hunters went on a tear, going 12-3-1 down the stretch.
“Especially at the start of the season, I was being relied upon every game,” Chastey said. “They all needed time to adjust to the varsity level so I had to be more of a leader than I was in previous years. I was proud of how my teammates improved throughout the year, that took a lot of pressure off myself.”
Coinciding with the improved play was Anderson’s shrewd move of bringing Chastey up from his normal midfield position to play forward alongside Xavier Decker, who thrived with Chastey’s partnership.
“It wasn’t too long before I said, ‘We need somebody to try and score up there,’ ” Anderson recalled. “Xavier was kind of a one-man show up front and he needed some support.”
The change helped Denfeld all the way to the section final, a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Francis that deprived the Hunters of a third state tournament berth in a four-year span.
While Chastey has one more prep season left, he definitely plans on continuing to play in college, hopefully at the Division I level. He hasn’t made any official visits yet but has attended several Wisconsin Badgers camps over the years and is a fan of the school.
Anderson is certain that level is where his protege belongs.
“I think a D-I (school) would be foolish to pass him up,” he said.
Duluth Denfeld’s Keegan Chastey (11), here dribbling between two North Branch defenders in a Section 7A playoff game, scored 24 goals en route to being named News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year. (Steve Kuchera / firstname.lastname@example.org)
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