The Hillsboro High School boys soccer team started with a flourish in their home opener on Monday, Aug. 20, but ended with a flutter as a 1-0 halftime lead evaporated and turned into a 2-1 loss at the hands of the North Mac Panthers.
Threatening mid-Illinois weather pushed the start of the game back 15 minutes but when both teams took the field after the skies cleared, the Toppers used the size of the home field to their advantage as they spread the field and kept the Panthers on the defensive.
The orange and black would nearly strike first just 90 seconds into the contest as junior midfielder Ian Roach controlled the ball in the middle of the pitch and found fellow junior Josh Bauman up front.
Bauman would create a little space with a nice drop step move and put the shot on frame, but the defender would get just under the ball and push it up and over the crossbar and out of play.
Both teams would have chances after the near miss, but it wouldn’t be until the 18 minute mark of the first that either side would finally break through. When they did, it was the home team who would reap the reward as strong ball movement by the Toppers kept the attack deep in the Panther end.
This persistence on offense and a failure to clear on the part of the North Mac backliners allowed Roach to find the back of the net as he collected a bouncer just inside the 18 yard box and put a hard shot in.
The heads-up play by Roach would put Hillsboro up 1-0 and very much ignite the Toppers as they would continue to keep up the attack in the next few minutes. The Panthers would buckle down on defense after the miscue, however, and keep the orange and black honest.
With ten minutes left in the half, the Toppers would very nearly give up that lead on a defensive miscue of their own as an over-zealous attack and a failure to cover the open part of the field resulted in a break-away for the North Mac senior forward Marshal Creasy.
Junior defender Joe Mattson would recover on defense to hassle Creasy just before the shot and fortunately for Hillsboro, this would cause the forward to push the ball just wide and out of play. From there, the Toppers would hold the 1-0 lead into the break.
When play resumed in the second half Hillsboro would come out gunning but another miscue, this time at midfield, allowed the Panthers a chance on net. This time they were able to capitalize, beating Topper keeper Matt Page to the low right side and knotting the score at 1-1.
The orange and black would respond with a flurry of activity in front of the net on their next three possessions, resulting in two hit posts and a corner kick, but each time North Mac was there to clear the ball out of the zone and end the attack.
Then, with 13:30 left in the tilt, an inability to clear doomed the home team as a bouncing ball in front of the net stayed loose and the Panthers were there to make good on the effort, beating Page up and over the top to go ahead 2-1.
From there, North Mac was able to back load the defense and try as they may, Hillsboro would never get any closer and dropped the home opener 2-1.
The Toppers travel to Carlinville Saturday to begin opening round play in the annual Carlinville Kickoff Classic. The orange and black face off against the Gillespie Miners in the 9 a.m. game followed by a 12 noon contest with the Springfield Lutheran Crusaders. The tournament continues on Aug. 25-30, with crossover play between the other three pools.
August 20 at Hillsboro
North Mac 0 2 - 2
Hillsboro 1 0 - 1
Scoring: Hillsboro - Ian Roach (unassisted); North Mac - Kaedyn Royer (Justin Bounds), Justin Bounds (Kaedyn Royer). Goalkeeper: Hillsboro - Matt Page.
Records: North Mac (1-0), Hillsboro (0-1).