Friday, April 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> NPHS girls, JHS boys win rivalry matches

Leader sportswriter

The North Pulaski girls’ soccer team dominated its 5A-Central Conference game against crosstown rival Jacksonville on Tuesday at NPHS, winning 9-1, and in the boys’ game, the Red Devils held off a late Falcon rally to win 5-3.

In the girls’ game, the Lady Falcons scored the first two goals before Jacksonville scored its lone goal of the game to make the score 2-1 NP. It was all Lady Falcons, though, the rest of the way.

North Pulaski’s girls closed the half with five unanswered goals to lead 7-1 at the break. Due to the Lady Falcons’ six-goal lead, the mercy rule was put into effect at the start of the second half, which cut the clock time from 40 minutes to 20, and the Lady Falcons (2-2) scored two more goals in the final 20 minutes of play to set the final score.

Ilycia Carter led the Lady Falcons’ scoring efforts Tuesday. She scored five goals, while teammate Brianna Russell got the hat trick, scoring three goals. Alexis Knight added NP’s other goal.

“Overall, I was real pleased with their effort,” said North Pulaski coach Donny Lantrip. “On offense, they did well on the attacks. The midfield did well passing the ball and keeping it up field, and the defense did well getting the ball back up field and clearing it. Overall, I was pleased with them.

“We still need to work hard and work on our passing. The midfield needs to get a little quicker, and sometimes we’ve just got to get a little more physical. But they’ve got great heart and they get out there and give it their all, and that’s all I can ask of them.”

In the boys’ game, North Pulaski’s Phillip Gensert scored the game’s first goal within the first five minutes of action. Jacksonville, however, responded with three-straight goals, and as a result, took a 3-1 lead into halftime.

Falling behind early in games has been nothing new for the resilient Red Devils this season, but the team’s ability to overcome those early deficits has been just about as common.

Though they don’t want to make a habit of falling behind early in games, the Red Devils have shown numerous times this season they can successfully overcome early deficits, like they did Tuesday.

“In six games, including a scrimmage, half the teams have scored in the first five minutes on us,” said Jacksonville coach Adam Thrash. “We’re pretty resilient when it comes to fighting back after being down and not letting that get in our heads.”

Gerald Walton scored the first goal for Jacksonville, which tied the game at 1-1. Cortez Jordan added the second goal, putting the Red Devils up 2-1, and Stevie Eskridge followed with his first goal of the season via a header into the net, which set the halftime margin.

Keilen Richardson scored the first goal of the second half with a header into the net. It was his first goal of the season as well, and that put Jacksonville up 4-1 early in the second half.

The score remained at 4-1 for a good chunk of the second half, but in the final 15 minutes of the game, Gensert scored his second goal of the night to cut the Red Devils’ lead to 4-2, and the Falcons seized the momentum from there.

Minutes later, North Pulaski (4-2) scored again on a goal by Darryl Kimble, which made it a one-goal game with the score 4-3.

The final 10 minutes of the game was a dogfight, but in that time, senior Red Devil Michael Honeig put one in the net to give Jacksonville the cushion it needed. Hoenig’s goal ended up being the final one of the game for either team.

“The two goals that we scored, we scored them pretty quick,” Lantrip said. “That put us right back in the mix of things. There are things that we need to work on. We’re going to work on those things this week and just improve and try to get better.”

Jacksonville’s boys have started a new winning streak since losing to Sylvan Hills on March 31. Since that loss, which is Jacksonville’s only loss of the season, the Red Devils have won two in a row, including a 2-1 win over perennial powerhouse Pulaski Academy on April 2. Before that game, Jacksonville had never beaten PA at soccer.

Thrash said there are still plenty of areas where his Red Devils need to improve if they want to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves, but the second-year head coach is pleased with the progress his group has made since he took over the program.

“We haven’t been known as a really good soccer team the last few years,” Thrash said, “but we’ve got some guys that are great to coach, and it makes it fun for me.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Red Devils improved their record to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.