Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons’ soccer sweeps Bears

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys’ and girls’ soccer teams each got exciting victories over rival Sylvan Hills on Monday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. The Lady Falcons scored in the first five minutes of the game and held that lead the rest of the way to win 1-0.

The Falcons fell behind 1-0 late in the first half, but scored in the 13th minute of the second half, and again with 35 seconds remaining to win 2-1.

The North Pulaski Falcon boys pushed the tempo drastically in the second half, keeping the game at a frenetic pace and keeping the ball on their offensive side most of the time.

North Pulaski coach Donny Lantrip said the faster pace in the second half was by design after he felt his team got out-hustled in the first half.

“We did force the tempo because they were beating us to every ball in the first half,” said Lantrip. “We’re faster than they are so there wasn’t any excuse for that. But they played hard in the second half and came through. I’m very proud of them.”

Sylvan Hills scored first when Gabriel Persson’s passed a perfect through ball to James Waller behind the Falcon defense. Waller got a one-on-one with North Pulaski goalkeeper Trenton Berry and scored with 3:45 remaining in the first half.

Berry was outstanding the rest of the game. Sylvan Hills got three very close range shots on goal from minute 14 to minute 12, each blocked in different ways by Berry. He deflected one shot over the goal, wrapped up another and kicked the third away while falling to the ground into the splits.

In the second half, North Pulaski kept the pressure on Sylvan Hills’ defense. After several close-range throw-ins and corner kicks, the Bear defense finally cracked when Illajah Carter got the ball in traffic near the goal, and weaved his way to an open shot to tie the game.

Sylvan Hills had a few opportunities to score, mostly on through balls to Waller as the Falcons were attacking so aggressively on offense, but Berry and the defense came through with stops each time.

The game-winning goal came when Carter took a pass near the far right corner and raced up the end line behind the goal. He then passed to Fernando Barrientos as he charged towards the goal.

Barrientos had one-on-one and put a hard shot into the back left corner of the goal, sparking a huge celebration, which drew a yellow card.

North Pulaski’s win combined with Jacksonville’s loss on Monday at Pulaski Academy, leaves the rivals tied for the second place in the loss column, and sets up a huge match Thursday at JHS’ Jan Crow Stadium.

North Pulaski is 9-3 in the league standings while Jacksonville is 8-3. PA leads the league at 10-1 and the top three are all guaranteed a spot in the state tournament. Sylvan Hills (6-5) and Beebe (5-6) are still vying for the four seed.

In the girls’ game, NP senior Ilycia Carter scored early in the Lady Falcons focused on defense the rest of the way, a strategy welcomed by Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson.

“I was surprised they went defense because we beat them by three so we still have the tiebreaker over them if we end up tied,” said Persson. “And that’s a real possibility because we still have to go to PA, who no one in our conference has even scored on this year I don’t think. So in a sense it was still kind of like a victory for us because all we had to do was not lose by three. And the difference between that two and that three seed in state is huge.”

The Lady Bears are still in second place behind PA at 6-2 while North Pulaski is 5-3. Beebe is close behind at 4-4 and hosts the Lady Falcons next Monday.