By Frank Foreman
One half was already in the books, and things were looking bleak for the Saegertown boys soccer team Tuesday afternoon.
But from the first touch of the second half, a 1-0 Warren lead turned into an impressive 2-1 Panther home victory, a win that was intense throughout and left Saegertown head coach Ryan Schenck very pleased with his team.
“They just livened up a bit. I don’t think we did anything much differently in the second half,” Schenck said of his team’s transformation from a passive first half group to an aggressive force in the second half. “They just made the effort to get it done. They raised it to another level and took care of business.”
Multiple moments could easily be defined as the difference maker in the win, but perhaps the biggest of those plays came with six minutes left in the game, and Saegertown (6-2, 1-1 Region 4) clinging to a one-goal lead.
Warren (0-6, 0-2 Region 4) began to push more players into the offensive zone late in the second half to generate offense, and it worked to perfection as Dragons captain Quinn Boger found the ball on his foot with no defenders around standing directly inside the box. But with how hard and how well Saegertown played Tuesday, it was fitting that Panther keeper Zack Coon would rise to occasion.
Boger set himself and shot the ball above Coon, where the junior keeper stretched high and tipped the ball over the crossbar, preserving the lead, and ultimately the game.
“Zack is a first-year keeper, and he does an amazing job,” Schenck said. “He got his hands to it and kept it out of the net. It was brilliantly done.”
The second half started well for the Panthers, as Saegertown controlled possession and began connecting on passes that weren’t there earlier in the game.
The accurate passing payed off 10 minutes into the second half when Andrew Flynn played a ball to Lucas Smith, who controlled it, and chipped it to teammate Matt Schenberg roughly 20 yards from the net.
Schenberg did the rest, as he drilled the ball off the pass into the net to even the score, and light a fire under the Panthers that was missing up to that point.
“(Matt) held a good position out wide. Luke got it across, flipped it in, and Matt took a touch,” Schenck said. “He placed it and put it away. He was relaxed and didn’t panic, and it was a nice, calm finish on his part.”
Schenberg was easily one of the best players on the pitch Tuesday, consistently forcing Warren to turn the ball over, and reeking havoc in the offensive zone.
Midway through the second half, Saegertown got the break it needed as Schenberg broke loose and found himself open on a breakaway down the right side of the field. As he cut toward the net, a Warren defender took the senior forward down in the box, setting the Panthers up with a penalty kick.
Without hesitation, Schenck turned to sophomore Peter Mattocks for the big shot, where he promptly kicked a low ball into the left corner of the net to give Saegertown its first lead of the game.
“Pete is one of those guys where, he is originally from the Caribbean, and he had this laid back attitude that isn’t a problem for him pressure wise,” Schenck said. “He wants that shot, and we won’t stop him from taking them.”
For Mattocks, it’s becoming second nature to line up for a penalty shot, as Tuesday marked his fourth one of the season.
“I know where I’m going to kick it, but I won’t give away where that is,” Mattocks said. “The goal picked us up, and we got fired up.”
The contest was controlled by Warren early on, as the Dragons outshot Saegertown 6-1 in the first half. With less than four minutes remaining in the first half, Warren’s Max Gross kicked a ball from deep in his own end high in the air down the field, where Boger one-timed a shot into the net for a beautiful goal, and a 1-0 lead.
Coon finished the game with seven saves, while the Panthers outshot Warren in the second half 8-4.
“The guys saw what they can do, and hopefully they understand what it takes to play against good teams like Warren,” Schenck said. “They need to play with confidence. We have a small roster and a lot of young guys, but they play with guts.”