PENMAR PARK – A perky Lighthouse soccer team refused to limp away from the 2012-13 season, engineering the league’s biggest upset – a 3-2 win against New Roads on Friday.
The last time the Saints faced New Roads, they lost 0-7.
On the 20 minute mark in the first half, freshman forward Robert Ashcraft chipped a hat to junior sweeper Luis Secaira, who catching the bounce coolly tapped it over the New Roads goalie’s head as he rushed off his line to grab the ball. The goal entered like a knife into their hearts.
Five minutes later, an unrelenting Robert Ashcraft pulled the ball quickly to the right of a defender and, spotting the goalie too close to the near post, slotted on the far post.
“This is embarrassing!” the opposing coach yelled, trying to rally his players, who looked lethargic, as apparent over-confidence gave way to woe.
At 2-0 by half time, Coach Mike Ashcraft challenged the Saints: “If you want to win this, you will win this. If you don’t want to win this, you won’t.”
In a similar game, Lighthouse Christian Academy ceded goals on Jan. 16 to Rolling Hills and let victory slip through their fingers, after going up 3-1 before the half.
They didn’t make the same mistake again on Friday.
In the second half, the Saints played with moxie – with newbie defenders Joseph Kayne and Gary Maxwell, and newbie winger Nick Clancey (all juniors), rising to the challenge with some powerful athleticism and growing knowledge of the game.
Freshman Tex Hagoski, filling in the midfield for injured senior Elijah “Taz” Symonds, was everywhere, tirelessly outrunning and out-muscling opponents off the ball. Junior Tori Scrbiner, as stopper, effectively jammed New Roads’ approach ramp.
At 10 minutes into the second half, Robert Ashcraft again demonstrated a hunter’s prowess on a long punt from starlet freshman goalie Adrian Brizuela. Bodying for position on a header challenge, with the ball bouncing high, Ashcraft jostled his opponent at the perfect moment so that the defender’s header went backwards instead of forwards. The startled New Roads goalie watched horrified as the ball went into his own net.
It was 3-0. The New Roads players struggled to make a comeback, the nightmare weighing on them. Senior forward Wyatt Hodgson, playing through pain, wrecked havoc on their defensive line with his lightning fast runs on through balls.
Robert Ashcraft, rounding and penetrating up to three opponents at a time, continued to make dangerous incursions deep into New Roads territory. By not easing off the gas pedal, the Saints kept defenders pinned back and weakened any attack New Roads might muster.
They didn’t, however, just give up. With two minutes to time, they had scored two goals and threatened to tie. Time and again, Brizuela proved his mettle, making stunning saves.
Any time a New Roads players managed to penetrate Lighthouse area, Secaira provided textbook lessons on defending – deftly bodying and dispossessing – unflustered and unintimidated by bigger opponents.
In fact, New Roads best chances came on corners, but they unluckily headed over the bar every time.
When the final whistle blew, bewildered parents looked as if they didn’t know to cheer. Perhaps some were confused by an early offsides goal that was ruled out. Others maybe were unaccustomed to Lighthouse wins. It was a huge upset, and fans didn’t seem to grasp it.
Lighthouse closes its season on Friday against the professors of possession, Lennox Academy. So far, the Saints are 4-6-1 – a decisive snapping of last season’s winless, tie-less misery.
The Saints began their season brightly, with a tie against Concordia that augured good. They quickly followed with a 9-2 trouncing of Pacific Hills. Next, a 2-1 win against league members Wildwood brought euphoria.
But masterclass Vistamar brought Saints’ feet back to Earth. They smashed us 8-0 – all eight goals in the first half. In the second half, Vistamar mercifully played keep away and intentionally avoided scoring. Key defender Nate Peterson, a junior, also sidelined himself for the rest of the season by re-injuring his shoulder.
Just before Christmas break, the Saints confirmed their dominance over Wildwood with a modest 1-0 win.
In January, the Saints faced tougher teams. They lost against Lennox 0-8 and lost against New Roads 0-7. Facing Vistamar for the second time, LCA broke a scoreless hex with a brilliant chip from Symonds, which Ashcraft unusually karate-kicked into the net at the last minute. They lost 1-8.
Then came the bitter pill of the loss against Rolling Hills 3-4 in which successive errors gifted goals. That game saw Hodgson break open his personal scoring for the season with a brace.
In the rematch, the Saints smelled revenge, but they were bewildered to be facing a completely different Rolling Hills, with strong players who did not feature in the first game. They lost 1-8.
With little more than a gloomy denoument looming before a team that had started with so much hope, the Saints entered Friday’s match wondering if they should believe in themselves at all. The victory seemed a Godsend.
Certainly New Roads’ slow start helped, as did the rough Penmar field, which favored the Saints who had practiced at Penmar. But those factors are not the totality of the story.
Christian character also accounts for the victory. LCA players showed grit and determination, tenacity and concentration. If New Roads were unlucky on many of their opportunities, the Saints deserved to win by their hard work and timely brilliance on the field.
Lighthouse take to the field at Moffett Elementary in Lennox on Friday with a desire to finish strong.
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