Friday, March 04, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ teams win one of two

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville soccer teams had their first home game of the 2016 season Wednesday at Jan Crow Stadium against Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School, and the Lady Red Devils picked up their first victory of the year with a 2-1 win over the Lady Wolves, while the boys’ game ended in a scoreless tie.

In the girls’ game, Jacksonville’s Kayla Reardon scored the game’s first goal about 10 minutes in, and the JHS girls took a 1-0 lead into halftime. The Lady Wolves tied it up with a goal about 15 minutes into the second half and the score remained tied at 1-1 until late in the game.

With just over five minutes left in the game, Jacksonville’s Lynzie VanBrocklin scored the go-ahead goal and the Lady Devils’ defense held JLCS scoreless the rest of the way, giving Jacksonville the win.

In the boys’ game, Jacksonville coach Donny Lantrip wasn’t pleased with his team’s offensive play, but he did like what he saw from his defenders.

“The girls played with a whole lot of heart,” said Lantrip. “They left everything out there on the field. I want my boys to get that way, too. It just seems like our boys, they want to dribble and be a little fancy instead of passing the ball.

“But our defense did exceptionally well – Kris Johnson, Levi Bailey, Ben Foshee and Stevie Eskridge. They held the fort down and locked it down for us. I’m very proud of them.”

The Jacksonville soccer teams played their first game of the 2016 season last Saturday at Vilonia, and saw mixed results in that one. The Red Devils handed the Eagles their first loss of the season with a 1-0 win, but the inexperienced Lady Red Devils lost their game against Vilonia 6-1.

At Vilonia, the Jacksonville boys (1-0-1) scored the game’s first and only goal early in the first half. That goal was scored by senior Illijah Carter on a penalty kick, and even though the Red Devils didn’t score again, they kept the ball on Vilonia’s end of the field for the majority of the game and played solid defense when the Eagles did manage to get the ball into Jacksonville territory.

Fatigue, however, became an issue for the Red Devils in the second half.

“We maintained possession and we made a few good runs,” Lantrip said of last Saturday’s game. “About midway in the second half we started getting sluggish a little bit and were not attacking the way we wanted them to, but it was the first game and they just got tired on us a little bit there.

“That’ll get better as the year goes on, but it was a good test for us and we wanted to know where we stood.”

The JHS boys’ and girls’ teams have had two months of practice to prepare for Saturday’s season opener, but one of Lantrip’s concerns leading up to the game was how well his teams were going to play together, with the addition of the North Pulaski players joining the Jacksonville teams.

“It was a big win for us,” Lantrip said. “I was really concerned about how we were going to gel with North Pulaski and Jacksonville combined, with the two programs combined as one, but we’ve come together and I’m proud of them. I’m looking forward to this season.”

Carter’s go-ahead penalty kick came about 15 minutes into the game, and was the result of him being fouled in the goalkeeper’s box. The Red Devils had other opportunities to score as the game progressed, but could never get that two-goal cushion.

“We had other opportunities to score, but we kicked it high and missed about three or four more scoring opportunities that we had late in the game,” Lantrip said. “But both of our boys’ keepers, they did great.”

Trenton Berry and John Hall were Jacksonville’s goalkeepers at Vilonia, and Lantrip also complimented the play of several other Red Devils, especially his seniors.

“Illijah Carter, RJ Moore, Stevie Eskridge – Stevie played well and held the defense down,” Lantrip said, “him and Ben Foshee. The senior boys really pulled through for us.”

In the girls’ game last Saturday, VanBrocklin scored the lone goal for the Lady Red Devils (1-1). Even though Vilonia won the girls’ game by five goals, Lantrip said the score could’ve been much worse had it not been for the play of goalie Reagan Tull.

“She did a great job,” Lantrip said of Tull. “I don’t know how bad it would’ve been if she hadn’t have been the goalie.”