Defense leads to split of MSC
Brian Smith, Sports Editor, [email protected]
There was naught a goal scored Monday when the clash of Mid-Southern Conference leaders Corydon Central and Scottsburg met on the pitch. While both teams had chances, some requiring cat-like reflex saves and the benefits of ringing the white crossbar, the end result was a scoreless draw.
As it was the MSC finale for each team, they close with identical 4-0-2 records, earning a share of the conference bragging rights.
“Both of these teams deserved it,” said Corydon Central coach Justin Bottorff. “It was a good match-up.”
To expect anything other than a defensive showcase wouldn’t reflect the season statistics for either squad. Coming into the match-up, Corydon Central had allowed only one goal while scoring 16 in MSC play. Scottsburg, meanwhile, had conceded two goals while notching 20.
“We were playing really strong,” said Corydon Central defender Chris Smythe. “We had about 60% control of the game. The defense was a main reason for that. To remain un-scored upon against those guys is amazing. We respect their defense, too. It was a great game for both teams.”
Shot attempts from Corydon Central’s Sam Craig and Scottsburg’s Friederich Ostertag required saves in the opening five minutes.
In the 12th minute, Ostertag made nifty moves through the midfield to clear space for a shot on target. Corydon Central keeper Jacob Chaires kept low to corral the shot. Seconds later, Corydon Central was on the attack for one of its best scoring chances of the night.
Cutting in from the right, Jagger Holton had a firm 25-yard shot punched away by Scottsburg keeper Jameson Hale. There for the rebound was the Panthers’ Lucas Lee, who rocketed a shot off the crossbar. A bouncing ball then headed to Nolan Ables, who sent a try over the goal.
Five minutes later, Scottsburg’s Jackson Campbell took a left-footed try from distance, also ringing the crossbar.
“I can’t count how many hit the crossbar, the majority from us,” said Smythe. “It was tough.”
Corydon Central’s Ethan Lisher had a pair of header shots saved at the mid-point of the opening half. Ables put a ball off the post again with a firm header. In a scramble for the rebound, Ables was the lone black jersey in a sea of white, trying to score a put-back. Although the ball crossed the line, Ables was whistled for a foul.
After a brief water break to deal with the late September heat, Chaires had a pair of easy saves. He also slid to his right, diving for a save, to deny a Noah Smith shot in the 32nd minute.
Corydon Central had a few more chances before the end of the half. Craig sent a slick diagonal ball to Lee, but his shot went wide of the post. Garcia and Smythe also were denied on attempts.
“We were attacking from all different angles,” said Bottorff. “We found success with our switch of play, so we were able to get everyone involved. We stayed upbeat throughout despite not scoring on the chances we had.”
To go with Chaires making saves, the back line consisting mostly of central defenders Zane Pigg and Jose Chaires along with Marcos Chavez and Smythe on the outside stepped up to keep Scottsburg away from the attacking third.
“They get a clean sheet a lot of games, which is great,” said Bottorff of the defense. “Most of our success has come from that back line. We play that high line well and play it smart.”
Through the first 20 minutes of the second half, Corydon Central was on the attack. Lee and Lisher had chances saved. Jose Perez fed a forwarding pass to Lisher that saw his shot curve just left of the post. When Lee threw a firm shot from 20 yards out at Hale, the keeper came up with the save.
Corydon Central’s Hayden Ettner came off the bench with an offensive spark, but a shot with 15 minutes to go was punched away. A second chance on a cross from Justin Drury went up and over the bar.
Things were hairy in the final two minutes for Corydon Central. The Warriors’ Smith was brought down on the attack, but the referee’s whistle granted a free kick from just outside the penalty area. Ostertag took the free kick and floated it well over the goal.
“That was scary,” said Smythe. “We thought it was a PK. But, we finished strong, that’s for sure. It was a heck of a game.”
Tired legs walked off the darkening field at the close of 80 minutes with both teams relegated to sharing the conference championship. It is the first MSC title for Corydon Central since 2013 and its sixth overall since the conference started awarding a champion in 2007.
“It’s my senior year and my first conference championship,” said Smythe. “I’m happy and couldn’t have asked for a better game.”
Bottorff said communication is something the team has focused on improving since the opening of practices, and he saw a vast jump against the Warriors.
“They were communicating throughout the field,” he said. “Because of that, our first touches were so much better … It was the most aggressive we’ve played in a while, too. It’s a sign of our hunger. These guys are hungry for that next challenge, and they were up for it today.”
The next challenge is sectional, where the Panthers will face Charlestown.
“We have Charlestown in the first round of sectional, and we just lost to them in a tournament,” said Bottorff. “We beat them earlier in the year, so it’ll be a grudge match. The draw couldn’t have worked out better.”