Jackson soccer team shakes off early goal

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Jackson’s Aaron Voshage, left, contests Mehlville’s Jacob Johnson for the ball during the second half Monday night in Jackson. (Laura Simon)

Jackson did not get off to the ideal start Monday night.

No problem for the Indians.

Led by a resurgent effort in goal and a European League worthy goal, Jackson (3-1) bounced back from a 1-0 deficit in the first 10 minutes and handed visiting Mehlville a 3-1 loss.

The Panthers (2-6) struck early against the Indians.

Nijaz Muratovic drew a foul down on the left side near the Indians' goal box, and Chris Hanak took the kick and scored on a misplay by Jackson goalie Ben Johnston to make it 1-0.

It was the lone blunder by Johnston.

"The first goal I let in was bad on my part," Johnston said. "Easy catch. I just didn't do what I needed to do -- technical things here and there. Second half I came out and didn't want to lose the game. I was coming out fired up and ready to go, staying on the balls of my feet and came out and did it."

The early goal was exactly what the struggling Panthers needed.

"We talked about trying to get up early and setting the tone for the game," Mehlville coach Tom Harper said. "We've had a rough go at it for the last three nights. We wanted to come out and try and turn it upside down and flip it around on Jackson. We've been playing them for seven years now, and we know they don't go down easy. They fight hard. We were able to get that first strike and it was kind of a refreshing environment for us."

Jackson got back in the game just two minutes later.

The Indians earned a free kick just inside the half line on the left side.

Michael Depuy struck a long ball to the back post and Austin Gammon put a picture-perfect header into the net for a 1-1 tie.

"Great free kick, all the way to the back post," Jackson coach Zack Walton said. "We didn't give up on it, and Gammon continued to make the run and got his head on it. You do stuff like that in the box and you're going to get rewarded. It was nice that it paid off that time."

The goal was a turning point in the game.

"That takes the momentum right away," Harper said. "You feel like you got it, you got it, you got it, and then all of a sudden it's gone. That was a timely goal for them to get the momentum back. From there it felt like it was gone. It kind of demoralized us almost. Sometimes that mentality is hard to teach the kids. The next five minutes are important -- you're still even, but we didn't get that flavor out of it."

The Indians then started to dominate possession and eventually took the lead for good with four seconds to go in the half.

Ryan Harvey collected the ball inside Panthers' territory and glided past two defenders before hitting a strike over the Panthers' goalie and into the back post.

"That goal before the second half, that's hard to swallow for the other team," Walton said. "So that's a big momentum swinger right there, gets you going at the end with four seconds to go."

The Indians nearly broke the game open in the first minute of the second half.

Keagan Cavanah hit a low blast that the Panthers' keeper made a diving stop on.

The Panthers seemed to regain some composure and applied pressure on Jackson.

"We played beautiful soccer in the second half," Harper said. "It was pretty. We can't say we didn't have enough chances to draw level."

The Indians held their lead thanks in large part to Johnston in goal.

The senior made two crucial saves to keep Jackson ahead.

Johnston's first big save came with 29 minutes remaining in the second half and the Indians clinging to a 2-1 lead.

The Panthers' Aldin Sabotic took a pass from Ricky Crabtree along the right endline and fired a shot from point blank.

Johnston dove right and saved the blast with his feet.

"It's hard for anybody honestly. It's really a 50-50 ball. It all incorporates with your training," Johnston said about one-on-one opportunities. "I do a lot of one-on-one training up in St. Louis, and I'm one-on-one with a lot of people all the time. Doing that break-a-way stuff, I just got to think about what's going to happen here and there."

The Panthers' next chance came minutes later on a cross ball in the box that gave the Panthers a clear shot, but Johnston slid over just in time to make the save.

"[He] started off and just made a mistake, and they capitalized," Walton said about his goalie. "After that he played well, made a lot of good saves in the second half and kept us in the game. He battled back and didn't get his head down."

The Indians finally sealed the game with 22 minutes remaining.

Jackson sent a cross in from the right side and a Panthers defender whiffed on the clearing attempt, resulting in the ball going to Preston Arnold, who made one move around a defender before firing a shot off the crossbar and in.

"The kid unfortunately missed the ball and it came to us, and we were able to put it in the back of the net," Walton said.

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