After trailing 3-1 in the first half of play, the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Blue Jays rallied back to claim a 4-3 victory over the visiting Fayetteville-Perry Rockets on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at Blue Jay Stadium.
The Southern Hills Athletic Conference contest between the Jays and the Rockets actually began earlier in the season with the Rockets jumping to a 3-1 lead in the first half of play just before the game was postponed due to lightning. The first goal of the game came from Fayetteville’s Zak Smyth to give the Rockets an early 1-0 lead, but shortly after it was Ripley’s Montrez McGill firing for a goal to tie the game at one apiece.
Two Ripley penalties would lead to two goals by Fayetteville’s Evan Kirchner to lift the Rockets to a 3-1 lead just before the lightning delay.
When returning to Blue Jay Stadium on Tuesday, the Jays managed to hold the Rockets scoreless for the remainder of the first half and the entire second half while Ripley’s Dalton Moran scored one goal and Tristan Finn came through with two goals to put the Jays on top 4-3.
“Starting in the hole they showed a lot of heart and desire to get it back,” Poe said following the Jays’ win over Fayetteville. “We kind of fell off a little bit in the second half, but we pulled off the win and that’s what counts. We were the team that was more ready to play at the beginning of the game this time. The Last time we were goofing off in warm-ups and weren’t ready to go, and the scoreboard showed it. This time I thought we were more prepared, knowing we had to dig ourselves out of a hole.”
Ripley’s defense in recent weeks has been quite impressive, led by sophomore goalkeeper Jaki Royal, senior sweeper Laymon Marshall, sophomore defender/midfielder Joseph Blum, sophomore midfielder Corey Germann,junior defender Josiah Staggs, junior defender/midfielder Noah Rowley, and senior defender Scottie Ott.
When the season began, Poe’s goal for this year’s Jays was to finish better than .500 in the wins/losses column but this year’s Jays are exceeding preseason expectations with no league losses so far on the season, and at the midway point in the season it’s clear that a Southern Hills Athletic Conference title isn’t out of reach for the determined Ripley squad.
“At the beginning of the year I was trying to boost confidence, telling them that they can win every game and win the league. At this point with the way they’re playing I see that winning the league is a definite reality,” said Poe. “I’m very pleased with the way they’ve been playing.”
The Jays entered Tuesday’s league bout against the Rockets coming off a heated non-league game against Reading held Sept. 17 in Ripley.
The Jays entered Saturday’s game with hopes of remaining unbeaten on the season with five wins, no losses, and three ties, but in what was one of the most exciting non-league battles of the season, it was Reading coming away with a narrow 3-2 victory to pin the Jays with their first loss of the season.
In what was a gutsy effort by the Jays, they could exit the field while holding their heads high knowing that being able to compete toe-to-toe with a talented team like Reading goes to show just what this year’s RULH varsity boys soccer squad is capable of.
“For the most part I’m pleased,” Poe said following the game against Reading. “They (Reading players) were very good tactically. I think we showed that we have the heart and desire to play. After seeing this game I think we can compete with anyone.”
Saturday’s game also brought with it a tournament-like atmosphere, which certainly helps the Jays prepare for post-season play.
“I think this game definitely helped us prepare for tournament time. The teams we see in the tournament will be just as good tactically if not better than this. So, if nothing else, it gives us a chance to see it and learn how to defend it,” said Poe.
It took around eight seconds for the Reading team to score its first goal of the night, a header goal off an excellent assist to leave the Jays facing an early 1-0 deficit. But the determined Ripley team didn’t let the Reading goal get them down. With 31:20 remaining in the first half it was senior Dalton Moran firing for the Jays first goal of the night to knot the game at one apiece.
The Jays had the opportunity to take the lead with a penalty shot from inside the box near the midway point in the first half, but it was an impressive save by the Reading goalkeeper Nate Stidham that prevented the shot by Marshall from reach the net.
Defenses on both ends of the field prevailed in the final 20 minutes of the first half with some excellent saves by Ripley’s sophomore goalie Jaki Royal.
With one half in the books, the game was tied at one apiece.
Just 33 seconds into the second half, Reading broke the knot with a quick goal to take a 2-1 lead and frustrations started to set in on the Jays. A fight between players broke out with 26:33 to go with fans hollering from outside the gate. One adult fan made their way through the gate and headed toward the scene of the fight, but a quick response by the RULH athletic staff and the game officials would prevent the situation from escalating any further. After a short break to allow the players’ tempers to cool down, play resumed.
With the clock closing in on the midway point of the second half, the Jays would tie the game at two as Moran launches a throw-in that hit off a Reading player and found its way into the goal. Good positioning by Ripley sophomore Tristan Finn on the throw-in by Moran played a role in the Ripley goal.
The Jays continued to fire away on the offensive end. With 13:15 left on the clock, a shot by Finn on a solo attack missed just wide of its mark. Just over a minute later, a hard shot by Morgan was saved by the Reading goalie.
On the other end of the field, Jaki Royal grabbed save after save while Marshall worked to clear Reading attacks to keep the game knotted at two.
A penalty on the Reading goalie would lead to another penalty shot for the Jays with 2:38 to play. Moran took the penalty shot from outside the box, a hard shot that was saved by Stidham.
Following the Stidham save, Reading scored on their next attack to take a 3-2 lead with the clock closing in on the two-minute mark.
The Jays stood at an overall record of 5-1-3 after Saturday’s loss to Reading.
The Jays were scheduled to be back in action at Blue Jay Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 20, playing host to the Fayetteville-Perry Rockets to continue a game in which the Jays trailed 3-1.