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Despite battling back from a 2-0 deficit, the Panthers fell just short, 3-2, in their home opener against Mason County Saturday.
Head Coach Ben Crutcher said it was the small mistakes that cost the team the three goals, including a personal foul called on goalie Josh Pence. The ensuing penalty kick gave the visiting Royals a 2-0 lead with 10:34 to go in the first half.
But the Panthers refused to give up. With the first half coming to an end, sophomore JD Damron took a corner kick. It was deflected, but Damron followed the ball and got it to senior Erick Lewis, who scored the Panthers’ first home goal of the season with 30 seconds to go.
Freshman Michael Hall tied the game with a goal on an assist from senior Juan Badillo with 33 minutes to go in the second half. The teams continued to battle back and forth until the Royals put the game away with a goal with 13 minutes left.
“Compared to last season we fell to this team 4-0, so there’s a lot of promise out here, and we still have plenty of games left,” Crutcher said.
While he said the midfield looked a little sluggish and needed some work, Crutcher said he was happy with his team’s passing and the execution by his team on set plays.
“First half, we played a lot of kickball,” he said. “Second half, we actually settled down, worked the ball around and got back to what we’re used to, which is team play, possession.”
Another key factor in the game was the aggressiveness by both teams, leading to a high number of yellow cards administered. Carroll County received two yellow cards, while Mason County racked up five, including one given to their bench for arguing with referees.
“One of the most yellow carded games I had ever seen,” Crutcher said. “I just told my boys to keep playing, doing what they’re supposed to do, and Mason County, they were tenacious. They were after it pretty hard. My boys kept a cool head, just played through it and kept sticking it to them.”
Crutcher remained confident about his Panthers (1-2) and said he will look for his seniors and juniors to step up and lead the team.
“Just getting them all on the same page and working the ball around, playing as a team, that is the one thing that will make us successful in the future.”