When a soccer scoreboard reads “5-1” as time expires, it’s often fair to assume the match was a bit of a cakewalk for the victors. But the Athens varsity boys’ soccer team’s win by that tally over Chillicothe on Thursday was far from it.
In a physical and intense contest at R. Basil Rutter Field in The Plains, the Bulldogs overcame a skilled and speedy Chillicothe squad that challenged Athens from whistle to whistle and demanded the best Bulldog performance of this young season.
The Cavaliers (2-2-1), a Division I program, struck first and early. Less than two minutes into the first half, Chillicothe midfielder Matthew Dobbins placed a crafty corner kick at the feet of fellow midfielder Tito Garcia in Athens’ six-yard box. Unmarked by the Bulldog defense, Garcia slipped the ball into the goal.
Chillicothe then kept up the attack, putting pressure on hard-working Athens midfielders and back-line defenders.
Keeping their composure, the Bulldogs (5-0) broke through with 28:30 left in the first stanza, when senior striker Danny Goetz scrapped for a loose ball at the top of Chillicothe’s box and provided a clever pass to sophomore Braulio Rosas-Clouse, who nailed a 20-yard shot into the Cavalier goal to even the score.
Both teams continued to play at a blistering pace, with strong saves by both Athens senior goalkeeper Finn Mitchell and Chillicothe netminder Nehemiah Reissig also exciting the crowd.
With 15 minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs’ Goetz drew gasps with a 20-yard dribble through the Cavalier defense. Evading multiple defenders along the way, Goetz then drove a shot into the net for a 2-1 lead.
Athens then began finding more space between Cavalier defenders, peppering Reissig with solid shots from senior Brian Johnson and Goetz. The Bulldog defense also closed ranks, limiting Cavalier incursions into the Athens box.
The second half proved to put as much wear on the field’s artificial turf as the first did. Energetic and aggressive, both teams challenged nearly every pass, bodies flew and some testiness bubbled up.
Nearly 15 minutes into the final half, Goetz, who was lurking in the Chillicothe box, handled a deflection from junior midfielder Andrew Lewis. Goetz then quickly tucked away his second goal of the match, putting the Bulldogs up 3-1.
Ten minutes later, the Bulldogs struck again. A long punt from Mitchell met Goetz past the centerline. Goetz then fought off two defenders and found the net with a patient shot that evaded Reissig’s reach. The goal gave Athens a 4-1 advantage and marked Goetz’s second hat trick of the season.
Less than a minute later, Lewis surprised onlookers — and himself — when his bending corner kick sneaked its way past everyone in a packed Cavalier six-yard box and into the goal for the Bulldogs’ final score.
“This was the toughest match we had so far,” Goetz said. “It was a fast-paced and physical game, but the team came together to put in our best performance of the year.”
Athens coach Simon Diki praised his squad’s effort in a demanding match.
“We were playing a Division I school and I’m so happy with what our team did. We started slowly but we came back right away,” Diki said. “We gave it our all. They showed their strength and work ethic.”
In JV action, freshman Luke Frost tallied a hat trick and fellow freshmen Owen Buckley and Luke Scanlan also scored in a 5-0 win over the Cavaliers. Sophomore Nico Barr and freshman Nathan Kallet combined for a clean sheet in goal for the Bulldogs.