Friday, April 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons get the rivalry victory

Leader sportswriter

It was a conference victory and rivalry-win-all in the same outing for North Pulaski as the Falcons defeated Jacksonville 3-1 at Falcon Stadium on Thursday.

The Falcons scored two goals in the first half to lead 2-0 at the break, and answered the only Jacksonville goal with seven minutes left to play to secure the victory in a match where possession time was essentially split down the middle between the two clubs. With the victory, the Falcons improved to 6-4 overall and 5-4 in the 5A Central Conference.

“That’s good stuff, it’s nice when you’re on the good end of it,” North Pulaski coach Jeff Osborn said. “It’s a cross-town rival, and we swept them this season, so it makes it that much sweeter. Not only that, this game was especially sweet because we’re missing some players. We had 12 players today, so it was ironman.”

North Pulaski got on the board six minutes in when Alex Edwards assisted Ulysses Arres for a close-range goal that gave the Falcons an early 1-0 lead. Edwards also set up the next North Pulaski score when his corner kick met the head of teammate Jacob Deweese in the 28th minute.

The Red Devils broke through the NP defense with a midfield attack led by seniors Damitrious Ervin and Erwin Hernandez, but the Falcons had senior power of their own defensively in the form of goalkeeper Conner Thamen, who also served as a vocal leader on the field for North Pulaski along with a number of key stops on goal.

“He’s a senior, and basically, he’s been playing keeper every year,” Osborn said. “He’s like a ball of fire. He’s very intense, and he’s kind of like a field general. He directs the defense on what to do. He’s got vision, and he plays hard, he plays tough. He’s still learning, even this late in his high-school career. He’s very vocal, he communicates well, and that’s what I expect from him.”

The Red Devils cut the margin to one early in the second half when senior Tyler Davis followed up a rejected shot by Hernandez in the 11th minute and found an opening between Thamen and the net to make it 2-1, but the Falcons put it away with seven minutes to play when Arres rushed in on a crossing shot and finished it for his second goal of the night.

“I tell my guys, maintain possession of the ball, and you’ll come out on top,” Osborn said. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, you just can’t lose possession. I think they just have some young, inexperienced players who will learn that in time.”

For Osborn’s second year at the helm of the Falcon’s soccer program, the improvement over last season and prior years has been evident in 2013.

“It’s a team now,” Osborn said. “Last year, we had a bunch of guys trying to play together, didn’t know each other very well. And now, they can do these subtle things where they can communicate and anticipate what the other player is going to do. When you work like that as a team, it just makes it so much smoother. That’s probably the biggest thing. We’ve had the skills, we just didn’t play together as a team last year.”

Jacksonville will host Little Rock McClellan on Tuesday while North Pulaski will host Mills.