Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SPORTS >> Lions get best shot from foes

Leader sportswriter

The final stretch for Searcy could hold surprises as the Lions inch closer to another top seed in the 6A-East Conference and a shot at their fifth straight state soccer championship.

The first part of their conference run certainly had its share of surprises.

The Lions (13-1, 7-0) successfully completed a three-game conference home stretch with victories over Mountain Home, Jacksonville and Jonesboro over the past two weeks.

But Mountain Home came into Lion Stadium with a trick up its sleeve and the Bombers took the Lions into overtime as regulation ended in a 1-1 tie. That led to a penalty kick period in which Searcy finally pulled it out to win 6-5.

Mountain Home’s defensive strategy was not necessarily anything new, but the fact that it came from such an offensive oriented team caught Searcy coach Bronco King off guard.

“They put everybody except for one person in front of the goal,” King said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

Sophomore Evan Scarbrough scored the Lions’ regulation goal, and it took a committee of players scoring goals in overtime to seal the victory.

Senior Steven Seitz, juniors Manuel Ruiz and Isia Garcia, Scarbrough and classmate Cam Woodruff all contributed a goal each.

“We’re usually in a position to get somebody’s best shot,” King said. “Mountain Home, Parkview, they usually have pretty good game plans. Parkview always plays us tough.

“If you go back and look, a lot of the games we’ve played have been 2-1, 2-0 — low scoring, defensive oriented games.”

Searcy easily handled Jacksonville 11-1, and the outcome included three goals for Woodruff and two goals for Seitz.

The Lions could have shut out Jonesboro in their 4-2 victory if not for a pair of bizarre plays in front of the Searcy goal that resulted in two scores for the Hurricane. Jonesboro players sent a pair of headers at Lions senior goalkeeper Ty Lay, who defended the shots with headers, but both were deflected into the goal.

Ian Hatchell scored two of Searcy’s goals while sophomore center-midfielder Kevin Berkheimer and senior center-midfielder Brandon Treece each had a goal.

Searcy has seen defensive strategies similar to the one pursued by Mountain Home two weeks ago, but King, in his third season as coach of the Lions, doesn’t mind if a victory is low scoring.

“They’ve got to play offense too,” King said. “An ugly win is always a good win. It worked into their favor, but our guys played well enough that we were able to get the win.”

The Lions played at Little Rock Parkview on Tuesday night, and will travel to Mountain Home on Friday for a rematch that will most likely decide the top two East seeds for the 6A state tournament.

The Lady Lions will also carry a perfect 6A-East Conference record into the final stretch. Searcy, 11-2, 7-0, defeated Mountain Home 2-1 after being held scoreless through one half by the Lady Bombers’ goalkeeper, who swatted away several high kicks through the first 40 minutes.

Sophomore Avery Albright struck first for Searcy while freshman Micah Tipton added the go-ahead goal late.

The Lady Lions shut out Jacksonville 11-0 before rallying to beat Jonesboro 3-2 on Friday.

Kerry Moon, senior McKenna Smith and Albright scored a goal each.

The Lady Lions hosted a game against Little Rock Christian Tuesday night that was billed by many as a matchup of the state’s two best girls programs.

Searcy will play at Mountain Home on Friday.