Note: This recap appears in the Thursday, Sept. 12 newspaper on Page A6.
It was a comprehensive affair Tuesday night at R. Basil Rutter Field, as the Athens Bulldogs boys’ soccer team dispatched the Parkersburg Big Reds by a score line of 5-0.
Danny Goetz scored a first-half hat trick, while Nicko Moulton and Brady Jaunarajs added goals in the second half to help the Bulldogs (7-0) improve upon their unbeaten record.
The result was never in doubt, although the hosts did survive a penalty-kick scare midway through the second half to earn their fourth shutout of 2019.
“It’s always good to beat Parkersburg,” remarked Athens head coach Simon Diki after the match. “They’re a Division I program, and it’s great to get this type of win.”
The hosts got things started eleven minutes in, when center-back Wes Dodrill launched a long free kick into the Parkersburg box. Braulio Rosas-Clouse latched onto the cross with a deft touch, sending the ball into the path of Goetz. The senior striker found himself alone ten yards from goal, and slid the ball coolly underneath Big Reds netminder Caleb Thomas to open the scoring.
Goetz made it 2-0 a mere thirty seconds later, courtesy of a quite unusual sequence. Rosas-Clouse, after helping to win the ball in midfield, struck a pass down the middle to Goetz, who was running at the Parkersburg back line. Goetz went for goal from distance at the same instant a Big Reds defender stepped in to the clear the ball, and the result was a spinning effort that climbed high into the night sky. Thomas did his best to judge the rotation, but the ball nonetheless ended up squirting through his hands and across the goal line.
The next fifteen minutes played out rather tamely, with Thomas making comfortable saves on Goetz and Andrew Lewis, and his Bulldog counterpart Finn Mitchell stopping Caden Rogers and Ashton Farnsworth. It wasn’t until the 12:06 mark that Goetz struck again, thanks to another free kick.
Will Matters hooked in a dangerous ball from the left wing and, after several players overran it, the ball bounced toward the near post. With Thomas coming off his line, Goetz was able to get the slightest of touches to knock the ball past him, bringing the hosts’ advantage to 3-0.
The lead nearly swelled to 4-0 on two occasions late in the opening period, first when Donovan O’Malley received a slip pass from Goetz and nailed a shot toward the back post. Thomas made a sprawling save, keeping his team within reasonable margins. Then, at the 2:05-mark, it was freshman Luke Scanlan rising amongst the trees of the Parkersburg defense to nod an O’Malley corner dangerously wide of the target.
The second half began much like the first, with strong midfield play earning the Bulldogs the lion’s share of possession and chances. Will Pigman, Moss Leobker-Conrad, Zane Evans, and Lewis formed a formidable quadrumvirate in the center of the pitch, keeping most of the action in front of Thomas’ goal.
It came as a bit of a shock, therefore, when an innocuous through-ball from the Parkersburg defense found its way past the Athens midfield and between the center-back duo of Dodrill and Zach Reifler. Big Reds striker Tristan Brogan tracked the ball down and looked to shoot, but before he could take aim, he was tripped up by the collapsing Athens defense.
Parkersburg couldn’t cash in on the ensuing penalty kick, however, as Tanner Stauffer saw his effort sail high and wide of the frame.
Having dodged one bullet, the Bulldogs quickly turned the tables, and it was junior Nicko Moulton who provided the knockout blow. Collecting the ball near midfield, the hard-working midfielder used some nifty footwork and a smart off-the-ball run from Jaunarajs to slice his way to the top of the box. Moulton put a shot toward the back post, which got underneath Thomas before nestling off the post and into the webbing for the Bulldogs’ fourth goal of the night.
Athens continued to pile on the chances for the rest of the game, with Pigman hitting a laser from 30 yards just over and O’Malley, Brian Johnson, and Owen Buckley all stinging low drives narrowly wide. Finally, with 7:34 left, Jaunarajs provided the closing fireworks.
Off a Parkersburg infraction, Matters, as he’d done in the first half, sent a driven ball into the Big Reds penalty area. Jaunarajs tracked the flight of the ball perfectly, hitting a well-taken volley over the outstretched arms of Thomas and into the bottom corner.
The Bulldogs finished the match with 11 shots on target, compared to just two for Parkersburg. Mitchell registered two saves for Athens, while Thomas came up with six for the Big Reds.
In JV action, Athens and Parkersburg battled to an entertaining 3-3 draw, with Jaunarajs, Luke Frost and Eric Carpenter all finding the back of the net for the Bulldogs.
It was all smiles for Athens post-match, who now have a week off to rest and recharge before Tuesday’s cross-county rivalry match at Alexander. Diki said that the Spartans (6-1) will provide a stiff test, and one that will require plenty of preparation.
“We’re going to come up with a strong strategy,” the Bulldog head coach promised.