Wildcats edge Panthers to advance

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The HeraldSenior midfielder Brayden Schue of Jasper controls the ball during the second half of Monday's game against Evansville Reitz in the Castle sectional. The Wildcats bested the Panthers, 2-1. 
Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Senior midfielder Brayden Schue of Jasper controls the ball during the second half of Monday's game against Evansville Reitz in the Castle sectional. The Wildcats bested the Panthers, 2-1. 


NEWBURGH - Jasper is moving on in the Castle sectional after a 2-1 win Monday against Evansville Reitz.

The Wildcats (7-7-3) dealt with a tied game on Monday, but never trailed. It was the second time the Wildcats got a victory on the Panthers this season, as they also took a 4-0 game on Sept. 19.

Wildcats coach Kyle Kendall told the Herald after the win that the Panthers are a good offensive and organized team, but the Wildcats have spent the second half of the season working on their defensive shape; and Kendall felt Jasper kept its shape in Monday's opener.

"If we've got the lead, I don't care if they've got the ball," Kendall said. "As long as they're not getting behind us, I was perfectly happy with that, and that's what they did both times when we had a lead, and that's fine."

Senior forward Tony Menjivar proved to be a major catalyst in Jasper's success. The Wildcats got off to a hot start early by creating traffic and pushes towards the net, and it paid off when Menjivar netted the first goal of the game. The clock was stopped at the 33:00 point of the opening half.

"We talked about coming out (and) jumping on them early," Kendall said. "(The) warmup didn't go the way we planned, didn't have as many chances to get some shots in the warmup, but Tony looked warmed up when he hit that shot."

It didn't take long for the Panthers to knot things up, however. Reitz made a push towards Jasper's net, as senior midfielder/forward Cole Hopkins produced the equalizer, and the clock was stopped with 30:42 to go in the first half.

Hopkins also tried to get something going for the Panthers in the second half, but one of his corner kicks met the hands of Wildcats senior keeper Geo De La Rosa, and Jasper kicked the ball away. Kendall thought the Panthers didn't get good heads on their corners despite the number of them they had.

The Wildcats kept working, however, to get the lead back after Hopkins tied it. Jasper persisted in getting the ball to the net and tried to orchestrate something. Freshman midfielder Brandon Elizarras made a push on goal, and Menjivar also attempted a corner kick, but to no avail.

However, with just more than five minutes remaining in the opening half, Menjivar got a distant shot off past junior keeper Brock "Liam" Babb of Reitz, who dove to his right, but was unsuccessful, and Jasper brought the game to its eventual final score with the clock being stopped at the 5:01 point of the half.

"Teamwork was there," Menjivar said of his two-goal performance. "They passed me the ball, I found the shot and I made it happen."

Menjivar was shaken up and had to exit the game with 18:37 to play in the second half. He walked, but hobbled slightly back to the Jasper bench. Menjivar said he passed the ball wrong and twisted his ankle, adding that he already had ankle problems. However, he managed to check back in later in the game.

It hasn't always been the easiest season for the Wildcats, who started their 2020 campaign 1-4-1, but they are 4-1-1 in their last six games, including Monday, dating back to the first time they saw the Panthers. Kendall credited Jasper working its way to .500 as a matter of resiliency.

"We were rebuilding this team in a lot of ways, and to lose all of the preseason, to lose a lot of the stuff that we do in the summer, to try to figure that out and then just after two or three games, to lose three or four kids to quarantine, I just felt like we were constantly trying to reinvent ourselves there that first eight games," he said. "The last eight games, we've just been a different team. We finally figured out who we are, and it just takes time. It shows how important the summer is to these programs."

Jasper is set to play the host Knights on Wednesday after the latter scored a 3-0 win against Evansville Harrison. Jasper fell to Casle, 1-0, Sept. 26. Kendall thought the Wildcats played a great game against the Knights and stuck to the gameplan, but it came down to one big play on Castle's end and it could've gone either way.

"We got to win as one, move as one, keep it all together, keep it under control," Menjivar said. 

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