Friday, April 01, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils score five straight, win

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville boys’ soccer team overcame a sluggish start to beat Sylvan Hills 5-1 in their 5A-Central Conference game Tuesday night at Jan Crow Stadium.

Sylvan Hills (2-6-3, 2-1) scored the game’s first goal 6:31 into the game. That goal was scored by Andrew Menke, which gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. It didn’t take Jacksonville (3-0-1, 2-0) long, though, to respond.

Approximately three minutes later, Jacksonville’s Andrew McMasters scored from close to seven yards out to tie the game. The score remained 1-1 until Jacksonville’s Pablo Yoste Ramos scored from more than 10 yards out with 9:50 left until halftime.

Just minutes before the go-ahead goal by Ramos, the most bizarre moment of the game took place. Sylvan Hills freshman Nick Burd was injured on a collision near the ball on the Bears’ end of the field. The injury was to his leg. The freshman Bear tried to play through it, but was having a noticeably difficult time doing so.

Despite pleas to the officials from the SHHS sideline, play kept going, and in an effort to bring the game to a momentary halt in order to sub Burd out, Sylvan Hills coach Sam Persson, from the sideline, instructed Burd to go to the ground and stay there until the game was stopped.

When play did stop, the sideline official raised her flag, told the midfield official what had happened, and Persson was then issued a red card and was ejected from the game with 15:47 left until halftime.

“As soon as the play finally stopped, the assistant referee goes over to the center and apparently says the coach told him to go down, which I’m not denying it,” said Persson. “I fully intended to tell him that, and apparently they thought I was trying to stop the game to stop them (Jacksonville) from having an advantage or whatever. He wasn’t faking. He was obviously hurt.

“He’s holding his leg and limping around. He’s a ninth grader, so I know he doesn’t necessarily know all the conventions of the game. Generally most refs in this league aren’t going to stop the game for an injury unless the player goes down. Typically then they’ll see this is an injury and then they’ll stop the game, or at least next stoppage of play they’ll stop it.”

Eskridge’s goal was the last one of the first half, giving JHS a 2-1 lead at the break. The second half was all Red Devils. Jacksonville turned up the aggression and maintained possession for the bulk of the final 40 minutes, and added its third goal of the night with 24:09 remaining.

That goal was scored by Illijah Carter from close to five yards out, which gave JHS a 3-1 cushion. Jacksonville took a 4-1 lead on a goal by Stevie Eskridge. It came with 15:50 remaining, and Ramos earned an assist on that play.

Eskridge’s goal all but sealed it for the unbeaten Red Devils, but Jacksonville scored again with 37 seconds remaining, setting the final score. The final score came off the foot of Juan Martinez.

Despite the win, JHS coach Donny Lantrip wasn’t pleased with the sluggish start.

“We came out slow,” said Lantrip. “Our seniors came out late to warm up. I’ll take partial blame for that. Maybe I didn’t warm them up soon enough, but we were slow the first 12 to 15 minutes of the match. After the first 15 minutes we picked up the pace.”

Once JHS did pick up the pace, there was no doubt what team was in control of the game.

“We keep pressuring and that’s something that we do,” Lantrip said. “We’ve got a lot of good players and good kids and talent and they work hard. As long as they do that, good things happen. But it’s never a gimme. Every match we play it’s never a gimme. We’ve got to come out and work hard every day just like everybody else does. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

“Our guys kind of struggled to deal with that,” Persson said of Jacksonville’s aggression. “I was really impressed with our goalie (Jared Ealy). Even though the score line doesn’t show it – something that he’s needed to work on is coming off his line to kind of stop things before they start and I thought he really improved on that.

“We also had some nice saving tackles and it could have been a lot worse. We could never really solve things up front. We’ll play them again and I think we’ll be better, but we’ll see. We’ve known since the Jacksonville/North Pulaski merger, as far as the soccer team’s concerned, we knew they were going to be strong. “So we’re kind of looking up at them and we’re kind of looking up at probably PA. So we’re going to be fighting for a state spot, and that’s kind of our goal.”