MINFORD — Down by a goal midway through the first half, the Athens Bulldogs bounced back to defeat previously unbeaten Minford High School 2-1 Thursday night.
From the start, two very different styles of soccer were on display. The Bulldogs sought to build the attack from the midfield and take advantage of their speed and passing skills. Minford, on the other hand, focused on playing tight defense, hoping the occasional counterattack would catch their opponents off guard.
After 25 minutes of play, it looked like Minford’s strategy might prevail. At the 21:11 mark, Minford’s Zane Miller put the Falcons ahead when he poked a loose ball in the box past goalkeeper Nathan Kallet. Despite dominating possession and controlling the tempo of the game, the Bulldogs found themselves down 1-0.
Battling poor field conditions and a tightly packed defense, Athens had difficulty getting clean shots on goal. Misfires from Braulio Rosas-Clouse, Brady Jaunarajs, and Luke Frost either went over the crossbar or just wide of the posts. Falcon goalkeeper Levi Corriel also made several nice stops, smothering Jaunarajs’s volley in the 28th minute and Rosas-Clouse’s bid for a score 10 minutes later.
Athens finally drew even with 12 minutes to play when a Bulldog deflection off the left post bounced back to Jaunarajs who fired a low hard shot into the lower left part of the goal from 15 yards away.
With time running out in the half, the Bulldogs continued to push forward on offense. With just over three minutes on the clock, their efforts paid off when Jaunarajs sent a crossing ball from the right towards the far post. Frost caught up with the ball and tucked it neatly into the back of the net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at halftime.
“Brady crossed it over and I saw the goalie shielding the ball,” commented Frost after the game. “I think he thought it was going out, but I beat him to the ball.”
Unlike the first half, it took a while for the Bulldogs to settle down and find a rhythm after the break. Sensing an opportunity, the Falcons stepped up their attacks on goal. At least three times Kallet was called on to thwart a Falcon fast break, on one occasion racing out of the box to head the ball up field.
Slowly but surely, the Bulldogs regained their composure as the back four of Andy Pagan, Owen Buckley, Eric Carpenter and Andy Pigman — aided by Rosas-Clouse and Jaunarajs — reasserted themselves on defense.
Shots by Brady Jaunarajs in the 20th minute and brother Austin in the fifth came close to putting the game on ice, but both times Corriel came up with the big save. Two chances from Walji Dadem in the final minute also came up short, including an attempt that Corriel stopped on the goal line as time expired. In the end, however, the Bulldogs (9-3-3) did just enough to secure the win.
The Bulldogs close out the regular season at home next Thursday evening against the Cavaliers from Chillicothe High School.