With two South Central Conference games left on the slate and a third straight conference title still very much a possibility, the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team traveled to Staunton Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 28, for a showdown against the Bulldogs.
In a normal season, this would’ve been the second meeting of the two squads as they were originally scheduled to see each other on the first day of the Kickoff Classic on Route 66, but COVID had other plans for the Bulldogs, shutting their team down and forcing them to take four straight forfeit losses to open the season.
With all of that now in the rearview, the two teams were finally about to make it to the pitch and, as always, it didn’t disappoint as the tilt was full of physicality, tight play, and some spectacular looking goals. When the dust settled, though, it would be the orange and black standing tall as a 1-0 lead at halftime turned into a big 4-1 victory.
The Toppers wasted no time in bringing the offense to the Dogs as two shots on frame in the first minute of the tilt forced Staunton to circle the wagons and adjust on defense to slow the Hillsboro attack. The adjustment worked as the Toppers were able to make good give-and-go runs in the middle of the field, only to be shut down when they got into the Bulldogs defensive zone as Staunton used good reads and good spacing to limit shots on net.
At the 6:30 mark of the first, the Toppers would get a little daylight as hard work on the part of the Hillsboro offense would result in a corner kick deep in the Bulldog zone.
Junior Will Christian would place a nice ball in front and senior stopper Matt Page would get a head on the cross, but the shot was redirected back ending the drive.
On the next Topper possession, they’d be awarded another corner kick as the Bulldog backline misplayed a pass out the end line. Chirstian would once again put the kick across the goal mouth, this time with fellow junior Adison Pollard on the receiving end. Pollard would get a clean shot on frame but his blast would go right into the hands of Staunton keeper Grant Neuhaus.
Hillsboro would continue to move the ball well against the Bulldogs using good communication and putting good connections together, though, they’d have little show for it as the Staunton defense crowded the middle and closed gaps deep in their own zone.
Finally, with 20:23 left in the first half, the Toppers persistence would pay off as senior Gavin Matoush took a throw in deep in the Staunton end and connected with Pollard, who blasted his shot past Neuhaus putting Hillsboro up 1-0.
Christian would nearly add a second just a minute later as he took a nice lead pass from Pollard, only to knock his shot up and over the crossbar. Senior Ethan Lentz would knock one over as well just seconds later. They’d add more chances down the stretch, only to hit just wide or just over, however, and the score would stay 1-0 into the break.
When play resumed in the second, Matoush in particular came out gunning, using his size to body up in front of the net and create a great look on net that forced Neuhaus to make the save right under the crossbar.
Likewise, Christian would rock a shot off the crossbar a couple of minutes later before sophomore defender Deklan Riggs, who has been playing a bigger role in working the ball up offensively, would send a terrific ball on net and into the upper corner giving Hillsboro the 2-0 lead.
The lead would only hold for just 1:30, though, as a Hillsboro foul just inside midfield awarded the Bulldogs a free kick and senior Jon Daugherty was called upon to take it. Daugherty’s kick would find the head of fellow senior Matt Sievers and Sievers would flick the ball up and over the outstretched hands of Topper keeper Mitchell Lowe, cutting the score to 2-1.
Just before the midway point of the second, Hillsboro would extend their lead from sheer hard work and dedication as Christian used a great move to work the ball deep into the Staunton end and force the left back to send a loose ball out the endline awarding the Toppers a corner kick.
Christian, as he had been all afternoon, was steady with the cross and found the foot of Page just inside the near post, but Neuhaus would get a hand on it and deflect the ball out of play, resulting in yet another corner.
This time Christian would go back post to Pollard, who was waiting all alone and put a perfect head ball into the top corner for the 3-1 lead.
Christian would add a goal of his own with 10:15 left as freshman Mitchell Cunningham found him across the middle and Christian buried the shot into the low left corner giving the Toppers the 4-1 lead. From there, the visitors would coast picking up the win to stay a perfect 5-0 in SCC play and improve to 11-5-2 overall.
The Toppers host their final conference opponent, the Litchfield/Gillespie co-op this afternoon, Sept. 30, with varsity action beginning at 4:30 p.m. This will also be the last home game for several four-year starters as Hillsboro closes out regular season play next week on the road before starting regional play.
Sept. 28 at Staunton
Hillsboro 1 3 - 4
Staunton 0 1 - 1
Scoring: Hillsboro - Adison Pollard 2, Deklan Riggs 1, Will Christian 1; Staunton - Matt Sievers 1.
Record: Hillsboro (11-5-2, 5-0).
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