Surviving weather conditions and a tough opponent on Monday, the St. Stephens soccer team picked up a big conference victory against rival Fred T. Foard.
Sophomore Luke Bruce scored a goal for the Indians (5-1-1, 3-0-1) in the 62nd minute of the game and held off a late game charge by the Tigers (8-5-1, 3-2-0) to earn the win.
“Foard is one of the toughest teams in the conference,” said Indians coach Chris Nelson. “We knew we had to come ready to play. The guys worked really hard out there.”
A scary scene happened in the first half. Foard’s Ben Hilton connected on a header, but the blow took him out of the game and off in an ambulance on a stretcher at halftime.
“Whenever Ben made contact with the ball, something happened with his lower back,” said Foard coach Scottie Goforth. “He said he had some numbness in his legs. Hopefully, its just something muscular that can be massaged out.”
When play resumed, the Tigers attempted to take the lead behind a penalty kick attempt by Kenan Ruffner.
Ruffner’s kick hit freshman goalkeeper Andrew Bare in the hands, who was able to come up with the big save.
“We had a couple of really big saves that went our way, including Andrew saving the penalty kick,” Nelson said. “There was another one later that nearly bounced in. We needed those.”
The teams went into halftime tied 0-0. It stayed that way for just over 21 minutes longer.
That’s when Bruce charged past defender Jordan Turner, evaded two Tigers and goalkeeper Zach Schellenberger. Bruce’s tap to the left side of the goal moved slowly, but eventually grazed the back of the net.
“In these conditions, I was afraid for us to hit it too soft,” Nelson said. “That’s something we’ve been working on. We don’t want to just blast it over the goal. We want to place the ball, find a point and put it in. That is what Luke was able to do in the second half for us.”
With 13 minutes remaining in the game, referees temporarily stopped action after seeing a flash of lightening. Both teams were sent indoors until the weather cleared.
After play resumed, the Indians held off two late goal attempts, including a bouncing save by goalkeeper Alfredo Abreu-Zavala, to win the game.
Up next for St. Stephens is another rival in fourth-ranked 3A team Hickory (10-1-2, 4-0-0).
“Hickory is a great team,” Nelson said. “They are well-coached. We are going to go out and play the best way we can.”