Saturday, April 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ penalty kicks beat Tigers 5-4

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers’ soccer team battled Little Rock Central to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation Tuesday at Panther Stadium, but the host team won the 7A/6A East matchup by scoring one more goal than the Tigers did in the penalty shootout, which ended the game 5-4 in Cabot’s favor.

With the win, the Cabot boys improve their overall record to 5-2-1 and are still perfect in conference play with a 3-0 record.

Central (4-7-1, 2-2) scored the first goal of the game less than 10 minutes into the first half with a successful kick from 17 yards out by William Mitchell. The Tigers maintained their 1-0 advantage till Cabot senior midfielder Fabian Knoell booted a free kick from 53 yards away that sailed into the goal with 1:56 remaining in the first half.

Knoell’s lengthy shot tied the score at 1-1, and that was the score till the end of regulation. Central scored the first goal of the shootout on its first attempt, but Cabot’s Edi Alfonso answered with a goal on the Panthers’ first attempt, which tied the score at 2-2.

Central’s Ross Regan was next up for the Tigers and his kick was blocked, thanks to a diving save by Panthers’ goalkeeper Jack Whisker. Cameron Stokes was next up for Cabot, and he put one in the net that sailed just under the top crossbar, which put the Panthers up 3-2.

The Tigers scored on their next shot, but Knoell answered with his second goal of the game, making the score 4-3 Cabot. Central’s Peyton Robinson scored on the visitors’ next attempt, but Nathan Taylor scored on the next attempt for the Panthers, which set the final score.

College signee Trevor Reed would’ve been next up for Cabot had Central been able to tie the score, but Central’s Ian Kim missed wide left on his shot attempt, which gave Cabot the win.

It was a good win for the host Panthers, but head coach Steve Porter was surprised there weren’t more goals scored during regulation.

“It was one of those games that I thought on the balance of play and chances that it should’ve been like a 6-5 game,” said Porter. “There were that many opportunities for both teams. I thought, especially in the first half, we should’ve had more chances, better chances.

“We just need to maintain focus. Technically, during practice they can do it. But we need that when we’re in a game under pressure, when it matters. We can always improve technically and tactically. The mental aspect of it – staying focused, staying tough, that’s what we need to continue to work on.”

The Lady Panthers’ game also took a shootout to decide a winner, but Central came out on top in their matchup, winning by the final score of 3-1. Neither team could score in regulation, but Central’s Rebecca Hardcastle scored on the first shot attempt of the shootout to give the Lady Tigers a quick 1-0 lead.

Cabot missed its first attempt, but the Lady Tigers’ next attempt was blocked. Braxton Reed tied the game at 1-1 with a goal, but Central retook the lead with a goal by Paige Sander.

Cabot missed its next attempt, and the Lady Tigers (3-1 in 7A/6A East) won it with a goal by Grayston Barron that set the final score.

“I really expected us to finish our chances better than we did,” said Cabot girls’ coach Kerry Castillo. “We had three point-blank chances to score right in front of the goalkeeper, and when you don’t make those and you let a team that’s as athletic as they are hang around you’re going to pay for it.”

Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers (8-3-2, 2-1) will play a nonconference game at Little Rock Christian on Monday before resuming conference play Tuesday with a pair of games at home against West Memphis. The girls’ game will be played first on each day, and both games are scheduled to start at 5 p.m.