Jasper defeats Seymour in season openerAugust 19, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The start of a new season means a lot of things to a team. It’s another chance for the players to get back on the field and use their combined talents to work towards their competitive goals, such as sectional glory and beyond. But the start of a season also means working off the rust of an offseason to get the appropriate timings and rhythms necessary to execute effective gameplans.
Such was the case for the Jasper boys soccer team when they opened their season at home Saturday against Seymour after an early afternoon storm threatened to wash them out. The energy and intensity was there for the boys, but it was clear during play that it was the first game for both teams.
That’s not to say it was a sloppy affair, but there were a number of instances throughout the game where both teams would get in scoring position only to see the window close because of small miscues. But that kind of play can be expected, and the game stayed competitive throughout its duration with the Wildcats eventually making the plays they needed to defeat the Owls, 2-1.
Wildcats (1-0) coach Kyle Kendall said he is used to having that tough first game to open the season, but he was a bit concerned as the scheduling with Seymour left Jasper with four fewer days than normal to prepare. But despite that the Wildcats fought hard and acted on the lesson they learned about aggressively possessing the ball from their scrimmage against Washington.
“We gave them one thing to work on, and that was to win 50/50 balls,” said Kendall. “Jackson (Kabrick) won a headball in the first ten seconds of the game, and that set the tone for how we were going to play. It was physical, but we set that tone. When you come and play with that kind of energy, it’s fun.”
Both teams had their fair share of opportunities at the goal in the first half. The first attempt for Seymour (0-1) came at the 34:44 mark after sophomore midfielder Tsubasa Kato found some space at the top of the penalty area and loaded up a shot at Wildcats senior goalkeeper Quentin Harmon, who caught the ensuing try. A few minutes later sophomore midfielder Casey Regruth took another shot for the Owls, which at first seemed like it could find its way home before floating past the top left corner of the goal.
Jasper took a few minutes to gather themselves after defending the initial volley before marching back down the field to return fire. Junior midfielder Dylan Hopf took a pass from senior midfielder Jackson Kabrick and sent out a shot at almost point blank range. However the attempt had a bit too much power behind it and sailed over the crossbar. About ten minutes later junior midfielder Brayden Shue found himself in what seemed like a breakaway opportunity at the Owls’ net. He tried to gather himself for a shot, but the extra few seconds of dribbling was enough time for a swarm of Seymour defenders to descend upon him and funnel his shot to sophomore goalie Donovyn Thomas. Jasper would get a couple of more shots before the end of the half, but the best attempt came in the final seconds before intermission. Following a corner kick, Kabrick found himself right at the doorstep of the Owls’ goal and took one last shot to break the 0-0 stalemate. But an almost superhuman effort from Thomas, who heaved himself off the ground, stopped Kabrick’s effort and kept the scoreboard empty after one half of play.
But the famine wouldn’t last forever. Three minutes into the second half senior forward Brian Elizarraras managed to break through the Owls defense and shot a bullet into the net for the first goal of the game.
“I opened up the space and turned around. I saw that no one was really behind me,” he said. “I took the space, moved and shot. It went in.”
But the Owls were not about to let that initial goal go unanswered. About five minutes after Elizarraras’s goal a host of Seymour players made their way to the goal following a corner kick. The initial shot was blocked by Harmon, but senior defender Alex Westfall was in the right place at the right time to collect the deflection and send it back past Harmon to tie the game 1-1.
The game remained tied up for most of the second as both teams increased their levels of aggression and physicality, which turned the field into a battleground of clashing wills. But with less than ten minutes left Jasper was finally able to impose their will and create the final shot opportunity they needed. As the Wildcats marched down the field Kabrick passed the ball to sophomore midfielder Sam Leonard. Leonard was able to quickly gather himself and hit the proper angle on the ball to scoot it around Thomas and send it in for the go-ahead goal.
“I just threw my body at the goalie and scored,” he said.
Seymour would try to find the net in the final few minutes, but Jasper’s defense held strong and they were able to celebrate the season’s first victory on their homefield. It didn’t come easy, but Kendall feels that the hard-fought game was a great way for the team to start figuring out who they are going to be this season.
“We graduated six seniors, but we also lost four other key players whether they were juniors who didn’t come back or exchange students,” he said. “It’s new guys, me trying to figure out where we all fit together, and them believing in each other. It’s a big step in the right direction.”
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