Eagles overcome early 2-0 deficit to beat Panthers
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The past two weeks have been a time of unprecedented circumstances for the Corydon Central boys’ soccer team.
According to Panthers’ athletic director John Atkins, the program parted ways with soccer coach Justin Bottoroff on Sept. 2. When asked about the situation, Atkins simply responded there “had been a change in leadership.”
Bottorff’s termination came so soon that Atkins himself had to take the reins during the Panthers’ 6-3 win over Henryville the same day, according to Panthers’ athletic trainer Jon Parsons. Not too long after, Atkins hired Cory Thomas, who played soccer both at Corydon Central and Indiana University, as interim skipper.
“It’s definitely difficult, popping in during the middle of the season, but it’s also a lot of fun,” Thomas said. “I enjoyed being out there with these guys and am looking forward to building the program a little bit this year.”
With a new head coach in tow, the Panthers had little time to adapt before hosting county rival Lanesville last Tuesday. Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 advantage, the Panthers’ defense faltered against the Eagles, who used a pair of second-half goals to achieve a 3-2 come-back victory.
All teams, regardless of sport, desire to get the advantage as quickly as possible. It’s extremely difficult to jump ahead any faster than the Panthers’ junior midfielder Orlando Guajardo, who needed only 49 seconds into the contest to put the Panthers up 1-0.
“We started off a little shaky on the defensive end, kind of got a bad break going for 50-50 balls,” Eagles head coach Bradey Sanders said. “Credit to (Guajardo) for making two solid tackles in a row to end up having that open goal.”
The Panthers picked up a second goal with just more than six minutes remaining in the half. A shot by Eagles’ senior Austin Crosier, which was just too high for the hands of Panthers’ junior goalkeeper Jett Stinson, cut the deficit in half two minutes before halftime with the Panthers leading 2-1.
“Honestly, I thought the offense was working a lot through our defensive mids, then kind of playing a lot of balls in behind,” Thomas said. “That seemed to be our best way to attack.”
The Eagles took advantage of a spaced out Panthers’ defense as the second half began, needing just over seven minutes into the period to tie the match courtesy of senior Griffen Lucas.
After Stinson trotted to the sideline to tend to a possible hand injury halfway into the second half, the Eagles saw their opportunity to take the lead. Breaking away from both Panthers’ defenders and their back-up goalkeeper, junior Maddex Miller easily found the back of the net to bring the Eagles all the way back for the lead.
“(Corydon Central) wasn’t as fast as us, but they worked hard,” Miller said. “I don’t remember (the goalkeeper’s) number, but, if you got it to him, he was gonna boot it. When I got past him, I knew I was going to likely score.”
“All year I’ve said that this team can bounce back from anything,” Sanders said. “Coming back from a 2-0 deficit is big for us, so I’m proud of these kids.”
Even after surrendering the lead, the Panthers had multiple opportunities to tie the score once again, but every chance was squandered by the hands of Eagles’ senior goalkeeper John Morgan. Morgan performed his best Lev Yashin impression as he recorded many of his 14 saves in the final 15 minutes to seal the Eagles’ 3-2 victory.
“We just all got a spurt of energy after that first goal in the second half; we just kind of lit off and just kept on going,” Morgan said. “We just kept hammering (Corydon Central), and there was nothing they could do.”
With the win, the Eagles recorded their first victory against the Panthers almost six years to the day of the previous one, a 3-1 victory on Sept. 8, 2015.
With the loss, Thomas’ coaching career at Corydon Central is not off to an ideal start. Alongside a 5-0 loss to rival Silver Creek two days later, Thomas’ Panthers are now 0-2 since the coaching change and 2-4 on the season.
“I think what caught us was we were so spaced out defensively. We lapsed on a few different things, and (Lanesville) had some speed that caught us off guard on a couple of occasions.” Thomas said. “There were some moments where I thought we played well and possessed it up forward. I think we really just gave up a couple of balls behind. A little bit more defense from our midfield could have helped us to let our defenders drop back. It’s the first game I’ve had with them, so I think with a couple more practices and cleaning up a bit of the play, we’ll be on the same page and a little more organized.”
The Panthers travel today (Wednesday) to Ramsey to confront county-rival North Harrison in the boys’ soccer edition of the Big Cat Classic. Kickoff for that contest is slated for 5:30 p.m.