Wildcats learn from mistakes, defeat Pats 5-2

Jasper's Jackson Kabrick kicks the ball during Thursday's boys soccer game at Jasper. Jasper defeated Heritage Hills 5-2. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald


JASPER — Part of the big upside of sports is being able to look forward to another game to bounce back from your mistakes. Last Saturday the Jasper Wildcats let a close one against New Albany slip away in the final minutes, but Thursday night they battened down the hatches and imposed their will from start to finish as they took down the then unbeaten Heritage Hills Patriots 5-2.

Wildcats coach Kyle Kendall was encouraged to see his team take to heart the lessons from their previous games and put together a hard 80 minutes of play that resulted in one of their most complete performances so far this season.

“It’s so good to see us learn from our mistakes, to be up two goals at the half and still come out and take care of business,” he said. “We’ve been here twice with two-goal leads at halftime and not done it. There was a span of 10-15 minutes in that second half where we just took over, and that’s just those guys wanting to go out and take over the game.”

The Wildcats wasted no time going on the attack. A failed Pats’ set up less than five minutes into the game led to senior midfielder Jackson Kabrick storming back across the field in a one-man fastbreak that netted the Wildcats their first score of the game. Kabrick struck again indirectly about 10 minutes later when he hit senior forward Brian Elizarraras with a precision strike as he flashed across the net. Elizarraras wasted no time in lining up his shot and scored a second goal for Jasper.

However the physicality of the game opened a scoring opportunity for Heritage Hills later in the half. Sophomore Jose Lara was fighting for possession of the ball with a group of Wildcats and took a sudden spill to the grass, which drew a foul call and a penalty kick. Lara’s first kick was stopped by senior goalkeeper Piercen Abbett, but the ref ruled that Abbett left the goal line prior to the kick and awarded Lara an extra try. This time the sophomore kicked his way past Abbett and made it a one-score game with about nine minutes left in the half.

Fortunately, Elizarraras was right there again to strike back for the Wildcats. Jasper once again mounted a charge on Heritage Hills and junior midfielder Malte Fjarstedt was getting bottled up near the corner. But he spied Elizarraras lingering around the net and managed to finagle a pass to him through the Pats defenders. Elizarraras took the dish and served his second goal of the game which put the Wildcats up 3-1 going into halftime.

The Wildcats kept their foot on the gas in the second half, not willing to let another lead slip from their grasp because of a lackadaisical effort. Senior midfielder Khale Burger netted Jasper’s fourth goal five minutes into the half, at which point the Wildcats fell back into an aggressive possession game that primarily sought to keep the Patriots from putting up any shots. It was an overwhelming success with the Wildcats outshooting the Patriots nine to one in the second half, although the Pat’s lone shot did result in Lara’s second goal. But no other offense was able materialize for Heritage Hills, and junior forward Tony Menjivar put the period on the game with Jasper’s fifth and final goal with a minute left on the clock.

Elizarraras finished with two goals, while Kabrick had one goal and two assists.

“We played way better today,” said Elizarraras. “The games against Harrison and Floyd, I think those games helped us develop the way we played today.”

“In the last few games we struggled in the second half,” added Kabrick. “We showed tonight that we can come out and play together. Usually when we get scored on the past couple of games we get scored on in bunches. So our whole goal was to stay composed, work together as a team and build again so we could get that goal back.”

Patriots (6-1-2) coach Joe Asbury called the game a learning experience for his young guys in how to take a team’s best punch and fight back during the course of the game.

“Some of the intangibles need to be better,” he said. “Our focus, energy and communication could be better. If we would have communicated better defensively (and) had a little more energy we could have stayed in the game a little longer. You gotta fight and weather a storm. Hopefully our kids understand those things and we get better.”

“We could have played better,” added Lara, who scored both goals for the Patriots. “They were more hyped and had more energy than us. We came out to fight and they wanted it more than us.”

Kendall hopes that the Wildcats (4-2-2) continue to buy into what he’s preaching about being engaged the game and ready to respond to the various ebbs and flows on the field. He knows all their remaining games won’t end like this, but he was happy to see his guys playing loose and free as they took care of business Thursday night.

“Some guys had fun tonight,” he said. “We’ve seen some guys that usually play angry, they went out and played with a smile on their face tonight and that’s fun to see. It’s not going to always be like that, but tonight we had our way.”

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