Wednesday, April 26, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves strong on both ends

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville Lighthouse’s soccer team stayed in a tie for second place in the 4A-3 Conference standings with a dominant 6-0 win over Buffalo Island Central on Monday at Burns Park. Wolf coach Christopher Felty thought each half of Monday’s match was one of his team’s better performances in different ways.

“I thought offensively, the first half we played really smart, communicated and moved the ball really well,” said Felty. “The second half it was our defense that I thought was much better than it had been at times. We’ve had a tendency to let things get behind us at times, either with through balls or over the top. We were really focused on that and didn’t let that happen. If we can put those two things together on Thursday, we’ll give ourselves a really good chance to be successful.”

Lighthouse (13-3, 9-1) hosts Heber Springs on Thursday. The Panthers are also 8-1 in conference play, and the winner will secure a No. 2 seed in the upcoming state tournament. Conway St. Joseph is undefeated in league play and has already locked up at least a share of the league title. CSJ (9-1, 9-0) has also secured the league’s No. 1 seed in state by having already beaten both teams that could still tie it for the conference championship. Even that is unlikely. St. Joseph’s two remaining opponents are well below .500.

In Monday’s match, The Wolves dominated from the start. Cristian Rivera scored two quick goals and Antonio Arias added another in the first 20 minutes of the match. Lighthouse had lots more shots on goal and kept the ball on its offensive side of the field almost the entire half, but missed all of those shots.

That changed quickly again early in the second half.

In the opening seconds, BIC had its best shot of the match thwarted by goalkeeper Josh Huber. A blistering shot over the top from nearly 35 yards out came in just underneath the crossbar of the goal, but Huber made a leaping stab and knocked it over the goal for the save.

“He’s been outstanding,” Felty said of Huber. “He’s really been one of our star players.”

Just moments later, Lighthouse’s Arias got his second goal of the match when some nifty passing left him one-on-one with the BIC goalkeeper from 15 yards out in the middle of the field. Arias put the ball into the top left corner of the goal to make it a 4-0 game.

In the 13th minute of the second half, Jair Silva scorched a low shot from the right corner of the box into the bottom left corner of the goal for a 5-0 Lighthouse lead.

For the remainder of the match, Lighthouse got several more clean shots on goal, but were wide with all of them until the very last second of the game.

Just before time expired. Michael Vanbrocklin punched in the final goal and set the final margin.

Huber only had to save six shots on goal while Lighthouse took 33.

While not wanting to complain about a 6-0 win, inconsistent shooting is one area Felty believes has to improve as Heber Springs and the state tournament loom. The Wolves have one makeup game next Monday, and then a whole week off before the state tournament begins. It’s a welcome break, according to the head Wolf.

“We’ve played so much we haven’t really had much chance to just practice,” Felty said. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to have some time to work on some of those things we need to improve.”