Second half goals move Pats to 9-1September 9, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - Heritage Hills had to work for it Thursday night, but in the end, the Class 2A No. 8 Patriots (9-1) left Jasper with a 2-0 victory.
The Pats wasted no time by putting pressure on sophomore keeper Chase Spears of the Wildcats (3-3-3) by taking a shot on goal about 40 seconds into the game, and their offense showed aggression all throughout the night. They were getting balls on net, and seniors Gabe Staggs and Jose Lara kept pushing and trying to make something happen for Heritage Hills.
In the end, the Pats finally broke through in the second half Staggs assisted Lara for his ninth goal of the season with 38:04 left to play in the game for a 1-0 Heritage Hills lead. Lara then returned the favor by feeding Staggs for his 10th goal with around a minute left to play to put the game on ice and gave the Pats a 2-0 triumph.
"We talked at halftime, said, 'Don't get discouraged because we're not finishing," Pats coach Joe Asbury said. "'Just take your time, have confidence in yourself, maybe look up a little bit, get it away from the keeper.' So, we tried an approach of, 'Settle down, you'll finish.'"
"We talked about (Jose) changing the game and maybe changing to a diamond four, man marking him and we decided not to do it at halftime," Wildcats coach Kyle Kendall said. "And then they came right back at us...and the play they made - the other formation may have made more sense."
Both teams had their pushes on net through the first 10 minutes of the game, as the Wildcats gave some early tests to Heritage Hills junior keeper Aiden Harris - including a penalty kick from sophomore Brandon Elizarraras. However, they couldn't put anything in the back of the net. Heritage Hills would have more chances on goal throughout the night, limiting Jasper's opportunities.
"(Senior centerback Brody Ficker) did a great job neutralizing those guys," Asbury said. "They still had opportunities because they're good players and (a) good team, but he did a great job and (junior Jesus Lara) behind him a nice job cleaning up any messes."
This left Spears to try to keep his team in the game, and he answered the call time and time again with many bigs saves throughout the night to keep the Wildcats in it against a Top 10 team in Class 2A.
"He made some big plays tonight, and the shot they hit was a great play," Kendall said. "And at the end, we didn't have any back - I sent every number forward. So, at the end, I'm going to go aggressive down 1-0. So, that one's not on him at all."
Both the Pats and Wildcats have vastly different records at this point in the season. Asbury credits his team's start to having some players back from injury and also with all the experience they have back from last year.
Kendall, meanwhile, noted that Jasper has played good soccer, but has also had a tough schedule this season. He told The Herald that he would rather be 3-3-3 after playing some close games than be 9-0 in all blowouts - since 5-0 games don't teach anything.
Jasper will have another opportunity to get that fourth win Monday at Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Mater Dei.
"We matched their pace in the second half, but we got to be able to match that pace for 80 minutes," Kendall said. "And we'll go to work. I'm going to go home and watch film tonight and figure out what went wrong tonight, and I'll come back with a gameplan tomorrow."
Heritage Hills, meanwhile, is having days off Friday and Saturday before getting back to practice on Monday. The Pats are scheduled to be back in action Tuesday at home against Evansville Harrison.
"We're trying to continue with the philosophy of having fresh legs and being able to compete and keep our energy level up at a high level," Asbury said.
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