Cats paint final touch in second surge

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Jasper’s Caleb Williams booted the ball downfield as Evansville Harrison’s Logan Teppen applied pursuit in Thursday’s match at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex. Williams poured in four goals, with three coming in the second half as the Wildcats broke away from a halftime tie for a 5-1 victory. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — With its fluid movement, frightening depth and occasional flair, the Jasper boys soccer team is beginning to craft works worthy of the featured gallery.

Yet that last brush stroke sometimes sticks out. A final touch the artist wishes he could have back, now sticking out from an otherwise delightful exhibition.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, their canvas of scoring opportunities against Evansville Harrison on Thursday was broad, allowing some early faux pas to be easily amended when finishing touches were applied.


So when the Wildcats did execute that clinching step, it stood out vividly — four goals in a 71⁄2-minute stretch early in the second half that awarded Jasper the 5-1 victory it seemed destined to discover much sooner at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex.

“I don’t think the way we played the first half and the second half was all that different, other than the final touch. We had what, 15 to 20 opportunities in the box? We just couldn’t put one in,” Jasper coach Kyle Kendall said of his team’s first-half scoring woes. “When you put three of them over the bar, it’s just really frustrating. The guys just settled down at halftime and really made the most of their opportunities and they put them away.”

An early burst against Boonville on Monday serving as an anomaly, the Wildcats have made a custom of sudden second-half scoring barrages after lackluster production through the opening half, junior midfielder Caleb Hurst said. Not converting chances in the early going? Frustrating, no doubt. But the tallies will come.

“We were creating chances, we just weren’t finishing them,” Hurst said. “So you’ve got to stay positive with each other. At halftime, it’s just ”˜Hey, you’re going to get one.’”

Less than four minutes into the second half, the Cats mounted their patented charge, led by Hurst’s compadre in the center, Caleb Williams.

The senior, who had deposited Jasper’s lone first-half goal on a left-footed strike from 10 yards out, sprinted with the ball from the left flank to the top of the 18-yard box, where he buried a strike into the lower left corner to give Jasper its second lead of the night. Less than three minutes later, Williams challenged the Warrior goalkeeper in the air as he tried corralling a 40-yard free kick from Wildcat defender Derek Schmitt. The ball popped out and after Hurst unintentionally nudged it over to Williams, he cleaned up the garbage for a hat trick.

Within four minutes, Hurst shiftily maneuvered with the ball at his feet only to be fouled hard inside the box. Williams converted the penalty kick to cap a four-goal performance and trim any remaining tension.

After receiving a pass from Nathan Helsley 30 seconds later, Garret Jespersen split two defenders with a quick burst and laced a bullet for his first varsity goal, grooming the finishing touches on Jasper’s second straight game with at least five goals.

Between the sophomore (Jespersen), junior (Hurst), senior (Williams), an assembly of other capable midfielders — Luke Ackerman, Christian Leinenbach, Gustav Brodin and Angel Hernandez to name a few — and Helsley up top, Kendall feels the team possesses an attacking potency that’s unlike what the Wildcats typically have worked with.

“For years we had a couple key guys and we knew what they did well and could get them the ball. With this group, we’re so balanced and we’ve got so many different weapons, that it’s not always a matter of making sure you get everybody involved, but trying to get those guys involved in what they do best,” Kendall said. “Can we find this guy in the box? Can we find this guy behind the defense? Can we find this guy in the air? And play to those strengths. Yeah, you still want them to have a well-rounded game but at the same time, you want to put your best players in positions where they’re most comfortable and where they can do the most damage.”

Williams and Hurst both concurred.

“It kind of comes down to coaching, too,” Hurst said. “Because if you look at our spots, everyone’s been brought up to fit where they need to be.”

Both midfielders spoke excitedly about what they feel is to come for the Cats, who earned an honorable mention nod in this week’s Class 2A state rankings after tying No. 6 Evansville Memorial last week and losing to top-ranked Columbus North by a goal Saturday.

“That Memorial game gave us confidence that we can play with anybody in the state,” Williams said. “And Columbus North, I honestly think it was a good thing that we lost that, just so we don’t get too high on ourselves.”

Yet dwelling too much on Week 1 results can be detrimental, the Wildcats’ coach assured. For now, the focus is on steady strides.

“We showed early in the season that we can play with Memorial, we can play with Columbus North, but I can promise you that a month from now, those teams are not going to be the same teams we played a week ago. They’ll be better,” Kendall said. “And I’ve told the guys, ”˜If we’re not getting better every day, we’re losing ground on the top teams.’ So right now, we’re there. Great. But we’ve got to continue to improve each and every day.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at

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