After a trip to Roxana on Tuesday where the orange and black came away with a big 7-0 victory, and a short ride to Raymond on Wednesday netted them a narrow 2-1 win, the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team returned to their home pitch Thursday afternoon for a South Central Conference tilt with the Staunton Bulldogs, a squad they had faced off against in both teams’ first game of the season way back in mid-March.
With COVID making scheduling even more hectic than normal, that first contest weeks ago was a non-conference match, but Thursday’s had more on the line as the Toppers, entering the game with a 7-2-1 record, as well as a perfect 3-0 SCC slate, looked to keep track with the Carlinville Cavaliers who at game time were a perfect 5-0 in SCC play.
The Toppers still hold two games in hand over the Cavies in terms of remaining SCC games, including a match up against Carlinville still on the horizon April 9, but every game is a must-win from here on out and Thursday would be no different.
Luckily for the Toppers, a lone goal late in the first and an incredible defensive effort in the second proved to be enough as the home team came away with the 1-0 win.
In a ceremony prior to kickoff, Hillsboro would honor three seniors and their families, including senior Colin Woods-Butler, son of Nicole Woods and Laura and Fred Butler, Frankie Passariello, son of Kellea and Vito Passariello and Shaw Riggs, son of Melody and David Riggs.
With a packed house on hand, the Toppers wasted no time in taking it to the Bulldogs as sophomore Will Christian took it up the right side and directly into Staunton territory. Christian’s shot would sail just wide, but Hillsboro would keep up the attack with two more chances rounded out with a free kick deep in the Bulldog end.
Junior Ethan Lentz would take the freebie, but send it over the crossbar and out of play and that’s how it would be for the early minutes of the half with the Toppers getting chances but being unable to capitalize.
With seven minutes left in the first, Hillsboro would have their best scoring opportunity of the game, as Lentz found Christian up top and the sophomore was off to the races all alone. Christian would push the ball just wide, however, but the Toppers would be vindicated just minutes later as sophomore mid Adison Pollard was knocked down on the play, but regained the ball and floated a shot into the upper corner for the goal.
Hillsboro would nearly add another with 2:30 left as junior sweeper Kennon Beecher found Lentz up the gut, but his breakaway shot would roll just wide as well and the Toppers would lead 1-0 at the break.
When play resumed in the second half it would be much of the same as the Toppers controlled most of the possession and tempo but never could finally put that last piece together.
In the defensive zone, Hillsboro would be just as solid as the backline of junior Matt Page and Devin Speiser and freshmen Deklan Riggs and Griffen Hughes turned away any strike the Dogs could muster and when time ran out, the Toppers would bring home the 1-0 win to improve to 8-2-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the conference.
Hillsboro is idle today before traveling to Gillespie tomorrow and then facing off against Carlinville on Friday at the Sports Complex.