Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils drop tough one to PA

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville boys’ soccer team entered Monday’s 5A-Central showdown with Pulaski Academy primed to take sole possession of the top spot in the conference standings, but the Bruins made one more play than the Red Devils did in the end, and it allowed the visiting Bruins to leave Jan Crow Stadium with a narrow 2-1 win.

Pulaski Academy (6-2, 6-0) scored the game’s first goal with 29:43 left in the first half. That goal was scored on a header by senior Kyle Kullander off of a corner kick, and it gave PA an early 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville (9-1-1, 8-1) put itself in position to score on several occasions throughout the first half, but the Bruin defense didn’t make anything easy. Almost every shot the Red Devils took was in traffic and/or well defended. But the Red Devil defense also made plays throughout the first half, which kept the game 1-0 PA at halftime.

“Defense has held us all year,” said JHS coach Donny Lantrip. “When you’ve got Kris Johnson and Darryl (Kimble-Brooks) and Levi (Bailey) and Juan (Martinez) – and Juan can play anywhere. Juan is a super soccer player. I trust them to hold down the fort and they’re going to hold it down.

“I just thought that we could’ve pressed a little more, especially in the midfield. We weren’t getting any first touches in the middle of the field, but they’ve got their All-State kicker (Justin Charette) and he can boom it. He can kick it.”

Charette recently signed a football scholarship with Ole Miss to kick for the SEC-West school in the fall. Charette scored PA’s second goal less than two minutes into the second half.

The Bruins had gotten the ball deep into Jacksonville territory and threatened to score, but the ball appeared to go out of bounds off of a PA player near the JHS goal. Kimble-Brooks immediately picked up the ball and began to put it down at the right corner of the goal box in order to kick the ball downfield, but the side official ruled the ball was still in play when Kimble-Brooks picked it up.

Kimble-Brooks and the JHS coaches pleaded to the official that the ball was already out of bounds when he picked it up, but the play stood as called on the field, giving Charette a penalty kick inside 10 yards in front of the goal. Charette then showed the power in his leg, as he booted a lining shot into the upper left portion of the JHS goal, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead with 38:02 remaining.

“I thought the ball was out of bounds,” Lantrip said. “I know Darryl did, too, and we were trying to move the ball quick because we had the momentum. So, Darryl’s trying to get it and put it back in play, and they called hand ball. We caught the ball in the box and gave them a PK, but hey, this is what these kids play for, this is what we coach for.

“Put us in the game against PA. We know they’re going to be well disciplined. We know they’ve got athletes. They’re there every year and they’re the ones we chase. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting.”

Jacksonville did what it could to make a comeback. The Red Devils scored off of an Illijah Carter header into the left side of the goal through plenty of PA traffic with 20:56 left to play. Carter’s header was set up by a well-placed corner kick by R.J. Moore.

Pulaski Academy dropped its defenders back in the soccer version of a prevent defense for the remainder of the game, making it very difficult for the Red Devils to get any clear shot at the goal. Jacksonville battled till the final second, but couldn’t get the game-tying goal needed to keep it going.

Fortunately for JHS, its next game will be against PA next Monday in Little Rock. If Jacksonville can win that game, the Red Devils can tie the Bruins for the conference lead, and if they can beat them by at least two goals, they’ll put themselves in position for the No. 1 playoff seed from the Central.

“We’re going to come back next week and give them a run for their money over at their place,” Lantrip said.

The boys’ game was very competitive, but the girls’ game was all Lady Bruins. The PA girls were dominant in their game with the Lady Red Devils, winning by the final score of 12-0.

Next Monday’s boys’ game between JHS and PA is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at PAHS. The girls’ game is scheduled at 5 p.m.