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The Panthers soccer team may not have played as well as they would have liked, but, in the end, it was the final score that mattered. Carroll County defeated visiting Henry County, 3-2, in overtime Saturday in a double header with the girls varsity teams. It also was Military Appreciation Night, so both teams sported camouflage t-shirts in lieu of the black and gold.
Tied at the end of regulation, senior Mark Ogburn scored the winning goal with a header into the back of the net off of an assist by fellow senior Cody Cruz.
Despite getting the win, head coach Ben Crutcher saw areas of improvement for his team. The two teams faced off Sept. 7, in the Two Rivers Invitational, with Carroll coming out on top, 7-2. “I’m sure some of our guys came into the game thinking we were going to roll over them because we played them last Saturday and beat them 7-2,” he said. “It just, overall, wasn’t a very good effort out there on our part. I think we could have done more. It just looked like we were lacking focus in our game play.”
Things did not start out well for the Panthers, as Crutcher pleaded with the players from the sidelines to make smarter passes and to “play to feet” rather than “playing kick ball.” Crutcher said the players were trying to kick the ball over the defensive line, but Henry was on the defensive.
“They were playing 30 yards deep, so you can’t really chip it over the D-line when they are so deep in their own territory like that,” he said. “At times, it looked like we lacked the intensity that we brought the last couple games.”
Carroll County had the perfect opportunity to take an early lead in the ninth minute, as Henry County was penalized for a handball inside the box. But senior Michael Hall’s free kick was blocked by keeper Colton Aneszko, keeping the game tied at zero.
The Wildcats posted the game’s first score in the 18th minute. This time, Carroll was penalized for a foul inside the box, and Henry County was awarded a penalty kick. Keeper Cody Damron made a leaping save to block the ball, but no one was there to help afterward, allowing Henry to rebound the ball and kick it into the back of the net, 1-0.
But the Panthers responded three minutes later as Cruz scored on a corner kick by Hall to tie the game. That’s where the score stayed into halftime.
While Henry County first came on to the field playing aggressively, they turned up the intensity in the second half, possibly a little too high.
Junior Jacob Buckley was issued a yellow card for excessive unsportsmanlike conduct for allegedly hitting Carroll’s Tyler Tuttle in the chest. He was issued another yellow card, resulting in a red ejection card, in the last few minutes of the game. As a result, Buckley will miss the team’s next game against Grant County.
Henry’s senior Isaac Steverson and sophomore Gavin Jamison also received yellow cards in the second half for excessive unsportsmanlike conduct and talking back to the referee, respectively.
Crutcher said Henry County was aggressive the last time they played, but more cards were handed out this time.
“This game between us and Henry is starting to turn more into a rivalry game. We don’t see it as a rivalry, but they do,” he said.
“…I’m proud that we kept a level head. I know at times it got a little rough and they got nailed, but they just got up and played the game and that’s the way it should be done. I don’t think I’m ever going to have to worry about them becoming overly aggressive and too physical where it gets ridiculously out of control. It’s just nice knowing I don’t have to worry about that side of the game with my guys because I know they’re never going to retaliate.”
Within the first five minutes of the second half, Henry had scored their second goal of the game as Jamison stole an inbounds throw in Carroll County territory and scored, 2-1.
In the 10th minute, Perez moved up from his defensive line position and stole the ball from a Henry County player near midfield. The junior dribbled down the field and took a shot from right to left into the side corner of the net for his first career varsity goal.
“I was really pleased with Denis Perez’s effort tonight,” Crutcher said. “For him to come all the way up from D-line and put a goal in the back of the net, that says a lot on how bad some of these players want to win.”
Crutcher said he was proud of his team for battling back every time they got behind in the game.
One area he would like to see improvement on is their goal scoring. “Once again, we took a lot of shots on goal, but we weren’t able to convert,” he said. “We worked on that yesterday in practice, but mostly it didn’t pan out on the field very well.”
Crutcher also wants to see Hall look to pass more often when the defense collapses on him. Because he is one of the leading goal scorers in the state, he is going to attract a lot of attention, like he did against Henry County.
“What he needs to do is recognize that and play the ball to other people because it opens opportunities up for others,” he said.
The head coach pointed out a few other players who stepped up for the Panthers.
“I liked the play of Tyler Tuttle. He’s really stepped up these last few games,” he said. “I really liked the play of Michael Hedges tonight. We got Brett Hall back tonight from a toe injury, so it was nice seeing him out there.”
Crutcher said the team still has some kinks to work out, but he was happy to have the win.
“It’s our first official district win of the season,” he said. “It keeps us perfect in the district and hopefully we can improve upon our efforts tonight and win out the rest of our district division.”