Panthers open season with blowout win

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By Kristin Beck

The boys’ soccer team opened the 2011 campaign with a commanding 8-0 win Thursday over conference rival Henry County. This was the first opening-season win for the Panthers in its short history.


“They played really good ball,” head coach Ben Crutcher said. “We did a lot of good things, but we’ve still got a lot to learn.”

The Panthers scored their first goal with about 31:45 remaining in the first half when Brandon Stewart seemingly surprised the Wildcat keeper with a goal in the left side of the net.

About three minutes later, Stewart offered a corner kick that was headed into the net by Erick Lewis.

The next score came in the 16th minute on a cross by Junior Martinez to Seth Harmon for the score. Harmon scored again two minutes later with an assist by Lewis, 4-0.

After that, it was the Michael Hall show to close the half. In the 20th minute, Jay Damron threw the ball in from the sideline, and after a battle with the keeper right in the front of the net, Hall squeaked the ball in, 5-0. About six minutes later, following a foul in the box by a Henry County player, Hall scored on a penalty kick to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead. With about 10 minutes to go in the half, Denis Perez sent a kick up the field that was controlled by Taylor Byrd, who sent a cross to Hall for the score.

Crutcher said he did not want to mercy-rule the Wildcats because they were playing with only 11 players, meaning they had an empty bench. In the second half, Crutcher instituted the “Black and Gold Rule,” meaning the Panthers could not take a shot on goal within the box unless it was on a corner kick or a cross. He also swapped the defensive and offensive players “just to give everyone a good opportunity to play and ample opportunity to score.”

Defender Ian White took advantage of this golden opportunity and scored just minutes into the second half on an assist by Damron.

Coming into the game, Crutcher said he wanted his team to play good small ball. “Keep things simple, play to the open space (and) send a message, kind of, to the other conference teams that we’re here to win.”

Crutcher said the win was a good confidence booster for his team. “I hope from this, we can step up our play when we play more difficult teams, and hopefully come away with a conference championship.”