Early exit gives Wildcat varsity chance

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Jasper’s Caleb Hurst drove the ball down the field just before scoring the Wildcats’ second goal in a 3-0 win against Heritage Hills on Thursday at Lincoln City. Hurst assisted on Kyle Thimling’s goal and Caleb Williams also recorded a score for Jasper. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — Caleb Hurst played so well upon entering the match that his coaches pulled him. Immediately. And told him he wasn’t going in the rest of the game.


That sequence transpired in the JV contest Thursday, when Hurst scored twice within six minutes of entering the game, extending the lead for the Jasper boys soccer team. So the coaches took him out, ensuring he’d be able to play adequate minutes in the varsity contest.

Good call.

Hurst, a sophomore forward, scored another goal and added an assist in Jasper’s 3-0 upending of Heritage Hills in the nightcap varsity matchup in Lincoln City. Three goals and an assist in about the first 25 minutes of action he saw. Not bad.

“That’s a heck of a day,” Jasper coach Kyle Kendall said.

Jasper (4-3-3) received specific instructions from Kendall before the contest kicked off: score twice in the first 10 minutes and record three goals by halftime. Execution was especially critical since both Kendall and Hurst pointed to the Wildcats’ inability to create the kind of looks they wanted in the last two matches of the Hoosier Cup last weekend in Bloomington.

“They went and did it for the most part, just jumped on them right away,” Kendall said.

“We created a lot of opportunities,” Hurst added. “We were all over them the whole game.”

Kyle Thimling furnished Jasper with an early lead when he finished off a Caleb Williams assist with a high-arcing shot from the left side of the box with 23:50 remaining in the first half. Hurst scored less than three minutes later by blasting in a shot when the ball squirted out of a scrum near the front of the net, which he described as “just playing trash at the time,” meaning looking for a rebound. Hurst then assisted on Williams’ goal shortly after, dribbling in from the right side and crossing a shot in front of the goal that Williams deposited into the net.

Hurst wasn’t supposed to get an extraordinary amount of varsity playing time this season. Kendall said the team knew he was good as a freshman, but it wasn’t until Hurst impressed coaches during a preseason summer camp at Anderson and during the Wildcats’ team camp that he was considered for a more prominent role this year.

“He played his way into the lineup and he gets opportunities when they’re there,” Kendall said. “He’s a kid that has made the most of his chances when he gets them and he works hard.”

Goalkeepers Cameron Craven and Kirk Stenftenagel, who entered the game with 18 minutes left, shared the shutout for Jasper.

At halftime, Heritage Hills coach Joe Asbury relayed his own to-do list for the Patriots (1-5-1). Specifically, he wanted his guys to move better without the ball, play with energy, be more physical and anticipate well. Asbury was complimentary, saying, “I’m not pleased to get beat 3-0 but I’m pleased that we played better the second half than we did the first.”

“We talked about some things that we wanted to work on and the kids responded,” Asbury continued. “They didn’t pack it in. They tried to work on the things that we talked about and we improved our play.”

The Patriots’ aggressiveness led to a few scoring chances, as Donovan Aders nearly corralled a loose ball off a corner kick for a score with about 24 minutes left in the game. That shot sailed high, as did a first-half boot from Yomar Cital when Heritage Hills had one of its few open looks. Patriot goalkeeper Abraham Perez stopped nine shots, some of which were straight-on looks for the Cats while Asbury said the Pats’ ability to adapt defensively allowed other shots to deflect toward Perez, allowing for easier saves.

Jasper will host Big Eight Conference rival Princeton on Saturday while Heritage Hills will travel to Evansville Harrison on Tuesday. Teams diverting onto separate paths for the rest of the season? Not quite.

“We’re working hard; we’ve got really good kids this year and we’re not getting the wins like we want or like our program’s used to but we’re proud of our kids and the fact that they continue to work hard and they’re moving in the right direction,” Asbury said. “Hopefully we can catch some breaks and get going a little bit here in the second half of the season.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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