For the second time this week Clinton’s soccer team hosted a number one ranked team in a Four County Conference match. After beating Union on Monday when the Spartans were number one in the Max Preps 1-A poll the Dark Horses faced the unenviable challenge of facing the Bulldogs on Thursday after they were elevated to the number one spot in the 1-A ranks. With a standing room only crowd jamming into the Dark Horse Soccer Complex the two teams faced off in a physical match with the home standing Dark Horses taking an early lead and hanging on for the 5-3 win.
With the teams deadlocked in the early going it looked as if a defensive struggle was in the making. Neither team was able to get any offensive momentum, with each defense turning the other team back before they could threaten the goal. Clinton finally got a break when Spell Carr was fouled and awarded a free kick from roughly 30 yards out. Carr hit the ball perfectly sending it toward the far post where Luke Byrd charged in and met the ball with his forehead, slamming in the Dark Horses first goal at the 18:34 mark to give Clinton a 1-0 edge.
Clinton would strike again when Ivan Ponce was pummeled in the box, taking a hard foul and drawing a penalty kick from the six-yard line. Turner Wells stepped up and took the PK, sending it into the back of the net to give Clinton a 2-0 lead at the 30:37 mark of the match. The Dark Horses seemed to be poised to blow the game open, but the Bulldogs still had a say in the matter.
The momentum took a quick turn in the thirty-fifth minute when Clinton Defender, Garrett Sanderson and a Wallace-Rose Hill player became entangled along the sidelines. Once the physical play was sorted out the referee had awarded Sanderson with a red card, disqualifying him from the match, and leaving Clinton a man down for the remainder of the game. The Wallace-Rose Hill player was yellow carded as fans from both sides feverishly protested the call. Clinton was able to regroup and hold off a couple of attacks from the Bulldogs to protect their lead and head to the break with their 2-0 lead.
The second half opened in much the same fashion as the first with the teams locked up in a physical brand of play that surely will leave some bruises. Ten minutes into the second frame, Spell Carr was up to old tricks, sending a free kick into the box that found Peter Darden’s head and ultimately the Bulldog goal for a 3-0 Dark Horse lead at the 50:17 mark.
It took the Dark Horses less than two minutes to strike again. Spell Carr drove the ball deep into the box where he met two Wallace-Rose Hill defenders who manhandled him, drawing the foul and setting up the Dark Horses second PK of the match. Carr shook of the cobwebs and fired the penalty kick past the Bulldog goalie giving the Dark Horses a commanding 4-0 lead at 51:57.
Wallace-Rose Hill finally got on the board in the fifty-eighth minute when Jose Carcamo broke free and slipped a shot past the Clinton keeper cutting the Dark Horse lead to three at 4-1. Inspired by their first score the Bulldogs seemed to press even harder putting more pressure on the under manned Dark Horse defense, sending shot after shot toward the Clinton goal.
Meanwhile, Clinton was busy finding seams in the Bulldog defenses as Spell Carr got behind the defense and once again drew a foul inside the box, resulting in the third penalty kick of the night for the Horses. Carr took the honors once again and nailed a low shot past the Wallace-Rose Hill goalie for a 5-1 lead, seemingly putting the game away for the home team in the sixty-third minute.
The Bulldogs refused to give in, scoring in the seventy seventh-minute when Yahir Cano bounced a shot just under the glove of Clinton’s Gray Sutter to cut into the Dark Horse lead at 5-2. Wallace-Rose Hill would get one more goal in the final minute of the game when Maynor Espinoza tapped in a ball that had trickled off the cross bar to score the final goal bringing the Bulldogs closer at 5-3. But it proved to be too little to late as time expired and the Dark Horse celebration began.
After the game, Clinton head coach, Brad Spell said “our boys came to play tonight. I am so proud of the way they performed. When you go a man down you never know what will happen. I thought Corey Smith came in, stepped up, and really played well for us on defense. We moved the ball well and executed what we had worked on in practice.” The win clinches no worse than a tie for the conference crown and gives Clinton its twenty first win of the season. Spell continued, “I want to thank the fans for coming out the way they did tonight, they really created a playoff type atmosphere and inspired our boys. This win ties the school record for wins in a season. We just want to wrap up the conference on Monday and then get ready to go to Wallace on next Wednesday, you know they will be ready for us down there.”
Wallace-Rose Hill head coach Dr. Michael Graybar complemented Clinton’s play, saying “Clinton had a great game plan that they executed well. I tried to prepare my guys all week for what to expect and when it comes down to it, and you are expecting it, and the other team executes it, that means that they are extremely well coached. They moved the ball extremely well from the back to the front. My guys are upset, but this is not the end, it is actually the beginning, we will go back to the drawing board and get ready for November, that’s when the journey really begins.”
The win moves Clinton’s record to 21-0-1 overall and 12-0 in Four County Conference Play. Wallace-Rose Hill falls to 13-4-1 overall and 9-2 in conference play. Clinton’s next match is Monday against Trask, a win will clinch the outright conference title. The Horses will then travel to Wallace-Rose Hill on Wednesday night for the regular season finale.
Reach Mike Carter at [email protected]