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Early goals lift Cougars over Panthers, 3-0

Early goals lift Cougars over Panthers, 3-0
Early goals lift Cougars over Panthers, 3-0
Corydon Central junior Jett Stinson tries to catch up to North Harrison senior Carter Wetzel during the first half of the Cougars’ 3-0 win against the Panthers last Wednesday. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

In 2018, award-winning composer Jarryd Elias released a song titled “A lot can happen in six minutes.” Three years since the song’s release, that title can also describe the first six minutes of the matchup last Wednesday between the North Harrison and Corydon Central boys’ soccer teams as they competed in the pitch edition of the annual Big Cat Classic.

While the Panthers are still looking for their first victory under new interim coach Cory Thomas, that was made more difficult in the match’s first six minutes, where a disorganized defense allowed the host Cougars to convert on a pair of corner kicks. By the time the first six minutes passed, the Cougars already had a 2-0 advantage.

“I think it was in warmup, the attitude and intensity wasn’t there, then it transferred over right to the start of the game,” Thomas said. “I didn’t think that (North Harrison) had a big edge on us player for player. Then when we started the game, it felt like they did.”

After the second goal, the Panthers’ defense began to tighten up, preventing the Cougars’ offense from building on their early lead for the remainder of the first half. The Panthers’ offense was equally neutralized, unable to break through the brick wall that was Cougars’ senior goalkeeper Logan McIntire.

“I saw more of the things we’ve been working on in practice, hitting the middle, finding our open guy and making the run behind, and just moving the ball,” McIntire said. “(Corydon Central) was obviously looking for (Hayden Ettner), their strongest scorer, and they just tried to drive the ball outside and back into the middle.”

The second half began mostly similar to how the first half ended, with both sides locked in a stalemate. The Cougars caught a break almost halfway through the period near the Panthers’ goal. Multiple shots on goal were deflected by freshman goalkeeper Bryce Gerlach, the resulting battle for the ball looking similar to ’90s’ NBA players fighting for an offensive rebound.

The team in blue ultimately prevailed in the scrum as a shot finally found its way past Gerlach, floating gently into the back of the net to extend the Cougars’ advantage to 3-0.

“We just had organization and position issues,” Gerlach said.

That final goal destroyed any hopes of the Panthers’ comeback as the Cougars’ defense stood fast, holding the shutout until the final buzzer sounded, making the Panthers’ play over the match’s first six minutes sting evermore.

“I think it was just a realization of ‘OK, we’re not focused; we’re not bringing the intensity,’ then they started to pick it up a little bit. Still, I felt like the entire first half we didn’t play our best game,” Thomas said. “A goal for us is scoring goals, that’s clearly a problem right now.”

While the Cougars’ offense’s early strikes were effective, Cougars’ skipper Kirk Wetzel’s praises were sung more for his defense in making sure the lead held up.

“We talk a lot about working on offense, but we don’t give our defense enough credit,” Wetzel said. “Even with the changes that we’ve had this year, we’ve got people stepping up and keep giving us opportunities to go and win games, so can’t give enough credit to those guys back there.”

Matters have not gotten any better for the Panthers (2-6, 1-2 MSC) following this loss, falling to Madison 8-2 on Saturday. They will try once more to break the losing streak by facing Rock Creek Community Academy yesterday (Tuesday) along with MSC-rival Austin tomorrow. The Cougars (6-3-1, 2-0 MSC), meanwhile, fell to Northeast Dubois 1-0 on Saturday and continuing the season by facing Silver Creek yesterday and Charlestown tomorrow.

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