Panther boys soccer met two tough district teams at home last week for a tie and a loss to Central Woodstock (3-3) and George Mason (2-0).
On Tuesday night (April 10), Panthers took on Central Woodstock. “I thought the team played well,” coach James Lofton said, “and Central is certainly a good side. Tanyon Lee notched two goals and Amrit Tamang one. Well into the second half, we were up 3-2, and we were unlucky enough to concede a penalty kick and allow Central to tie the game. After two overtimes, the game ended 3-3.
“We’ve never played Central before,” said senior Clayton Hatcher, “and we heard they were a pretty good team. Coach told us that it would be a good fight. It was a battle all right. They scored really fast – in the first minute. But then Amrit scored about a minute after that. It was a grudge match after that.
“The second half was a defensive battle. Tanyon scored those two goals within the first 10 minutes,” Hatcher said. “Then we took the lead with three minutes left in game, and they got a penalty kick to tie it up. We went into overtime with two five minute halves that ended in a tie. Everyone was cramping up because it was such a long game. Everyone fought really hard. It wasn’t a win, but it was really a strong performance. ”
“We’re getting better by leaps and bounds,” Lofton said, “and Central is just one of a number of teams that we are looking forward to playing again.”
On Friday, April 13, Panthers played the perennial league powerhouse, George Mason. “From my point of view,” Lofton said, “the first half of the game was the best soccer the boys’ varsity team has played all year. The guys played tight, team defense and gave nothing away. The midfielders passed the ball well and were continually first to win the ball. Offenders Amrit Tamang and Matt Lombardi put pressure on Mason and made dangerous runs as forwards.
“On a different night, I think we might have been able to get a goal or two early in the game,” Lofton said. “We don’t have a huge number of players, and we’re still building our game-fitness. As the game wore on, I think Mason was able to capitalize on our fatigue. That is okay. My boys still played like champions: They were respectful, determined, and remained upbeat. Whether the ball goes in for our opponents or for us, if the boys play and carry themselves like champions, we can hold our heads high and be proud of a good performance. I think the boys are really starting to buy into the idea that if they truly play their hearts out, they’ll never lose, whether they outscore the other team or not.
“We also tried a number of players in new positions,” Lofton said. “Brian Baumgardner, Logan Vest, Robbie Adams, and Matt Lombardi all played new positions and had outstanding performances. We conceded two goals in the second half to lose 0-2, but the team is getting better and better. We can correct and work on the things that led to the goals, and I think the coaching staff and players alike are excited about the direction of the team. I would like to think, by the end of the season, that the guys will be standard-setters off the field – in academics, community service, and through their interactions with each other – and a force to be reckoned with on the field.”