A hat trick and great second-half defense led Crawfordsville’s boys soccer team to a 3-2 win over previously unbeaten and No. 13 ranked North Putnam.
The Athenians got three goals from Jaziel Gil-Herrera, as the junior doubled his season goal total, and Crawfordsville pitched a second-half shutout to move to 7-4 on the season, while the Cougars fall to 10-1.
“Tonight was his night,” Athenians coach Marcus Hale said of Herrera, who scored on penalty kicks 37 seconds apart in the first half, and then was there when a steal and deflection put the ball on his foot. He found the net with 26:11 left in the match and it was all defense from there.
“We’ve had lots of guys who have had big nights this season,” Hale noted. “We go into any match looking for any of 10 guys on the field to score if given the chance.”
The Cougars were the aggressors in the early stages, scoring in the first three minutes and then tying the game at 2-2 with 15 minutes left in the first half.
They had 13 shots on Athenians goal keeper Alec Saidian in that first half, and aside from the two penalty-kick goals, looked to stay unbeaten.
“Crawfordsville is a good team, Marcus (Coach Hale) is a really good coach,” Cougars coach Kyle Morgan said. “They made some adjustments and doubled defensively on our shooters. We played well, we executed our game plan. Crawfordsville plays at another level with their schedule and that makes a difference. We put a lot of energy into that first half, and I kind of knew that whoever got a goal in the second would be in the driver’s seat.”
That third goal came during a scrum in from of Cougars goalie Michael Ali, Jr.
The ball caromed once, deflected a second time, and Herrera was there.
“Doing what he needed to do,” Hale said.
“If we clear the ball, we are fine,” Morgan said.
That lone goal was surrounded by a lot of defensive play, as the Athenians kept the ball more and away from the Cougars strikers, especially senior Nolan Hackleman, who had an assist on the first and the second goal for the visitors. He didn’t get a shot on goal in the second half.
“We made a lot fewer mistakes in the second half,” Hale said. “We also had to work around a couple more injuries, so more guys got a lot of good minutes. One of our freshmen, David Estrada, continues to play well, and we had (Dio) Freeze, (Andrew) Hurt, and (Taiga) Koyanagi all come in and play really well off the bench. Our back line played really well all night.”
Saidian faced only four shots in the second half for a match-total of 17. Ali saw seven shots.
The Cougars could be forgiven if they might have been looking ahead from the match with Crawfordsville, as they have a huge home match on Saturday.
They will take on Indian Creek and the stakes are monumental.
“We have at least a share of the conference championship,” Wagner said. “With a win, we win the league outright. It is the first conference title in school history, and the guys are really hungry for Saturday. We used to come up to Crawfordsville and get beat 7-0 or 6-1, and tonight we took them to one. Saturday we play for a conference championship. It shows the growth of the program.”
Hale echoed that thought.
“They are a very good team,” he said, “and Coach Wagner has built a good program over the years. We wish them all the success in the world Saturday. I know and we know how important conference championships are.”
Both coaches even mentioned that in a couple years, this very matchup will be a conference affair
The Athenians have a couple tough home matches coming up, as they have Northview coming in on Saturday and McCutcheon on Monday. They travel to North Montgomery Wednesday in search of a county title.
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