“We’ve waited a long time for this,” the cry rang out in the Litchfield boys soccer huddle prior to kickoff on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
Two years to be exact, as the Panthers hosted their first game under the Litchfield banner after two seasons in Gillespie. The two schools still co-op for boys soccer, but the decision was made to move the team to Lloyd Hill Field for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, followed by a reevaluation at that point.
The excitement from the Litchfield lineup was evident, but the visitors from Lincolnwood spoiled the homecoming with a goal in the first 30 seconds en route to a 6-1 victory over the Purple Panthers.
Sophomore Austin Thornton sucked the air out of the Panthers 25 seconds into the game as he made his way down the right side, outpacing the Litchfield defender and chipping a shot into the far side of the goal over the head of Cameron Crow.
Thornton would strike again just three minutes later on a similar run, this time beating the hard charging Crow to a loose ball and slotting it home for goal number two.
The Panthers’ senior keeper would avenge one of the goals from Thornton though, stoning the Nokomis sophomore on a high shot eight minutes into the first half.
After the quick sprint to start the game, the next 20 minutes were mainly back and forth between the two sides. Lincolnwood controlled possession for much of the first half, but Crow and the Litchfield defense held them at bay until the 16:54 mark of the half.
There, Elijah Aumann would emerge through traffic and sneak a shot past Crow for goal number three of the game.
With time winding down in the first half, Litchfield pulled one back. Drake Gasperson made his way across the mouth of the Lincolnwood goal and avoided a diving attempt by Lincolnwood keeper Gabe Armentrout. With the goal open, Gasperson calmly slid a shot into the near side of the net to make it 3-1.
After a much needed halftime break, the two teams hit the field again for the second half in the sweltering heat.
Lincolnwood put distance between themselves and any hopes of a Litchfield comeback 11 minutes in as Aumann again emerged from a scrum to poach his second goal of the game.
The Nokomis junior was far from done though as he blasted a missile to the far corner from 25 yards out to make it 5-1, then came away with another goal in traffic for his fourth goal of the game.
Litchfield would have a few opportunities, including a point-blank attempt that Armentrout blocked, but the chances would be too few and unsuccessful as the Lancers came away with the 6-1 win.
The Panthers will have another shot at victory number one on Thursday, Aug. 26, when they take on Maryville Christian in Maryville. The Lions are coached by Litchfield High School graduate Jacob Jones.
The win over Litchfield was the second of the year and in as many days for the Lancers, who opened the season on Monday, Aug. 23, with a 5-0 victory over Taylorville at Terry Todt Field in Raymond.
The Lancers scored twice in the first half, then picked up three more goals in the second to polish off the Tornadoes and earn Gabe Armentrout his first shutout of his career.
The Lancers outshot the Tornadoes 13-1 in the game, with Elijah Aumann and Austin Thornton accounting for all the scoring, as they did in the win over Litchfield.
Aumann netted four of the five goals, giving him eight in just two games, one more than his combined total from his first two seasons in orange and black. The Nokomis junior also had an assist, upping his point total to 17 on the season, just five less than his career total going into the year.
Thornton, who had one goal and two assists last year, added in a goal and an assist as well, while Wyatt Kistner finished with two assists and Mason Stauder had one.
The two five-goal victories helped the Lancers off to a strong start, but they will be tested greatly on Saturday, Aug. 28, as they play North Mac and Hillsboro back-to-back in their games at the Kickoff Classic On Route 66 in Virden.
Litchfield also plays in the tournament, but on the Carlinville side of the bracket on the Cavies’ home turf. The Panthers play Athens at 11 a.m., followed by a date with Springfield Lutheran at 1:30 p.m.
August 24 at Litchfield
Lincolnwood 3 3 - 6
Litchfield 1 0 - 1
Goals: Lincolnwood - Elijah Aumann 4, Austin Thornton 2; Litchfield - Drake Gasperson 1. Goalkeepers: Lincolnwood - Gabe Armentrout; Litchfield - Cameron Crow.
Records: Lincolnwood (2-0); Litchfield (0-1).
August 23 at Raymond
Taylorville 0 0 - 0
Lincolnwood 2 3 - 5
Goals: Lincolnwood - Elijah Aumann 4, Austin Thornton 1. Goalkeeper: Lincolnwood - Gabe Armentrout (1 shutout).
Aug. 28-Sept. 1
Kickoff Classic On Rt. 66
August 28 at North Mac
9 a.m. - Lincolnwood vs. North Mac
11 a.m. - Hillsboro vs. Lincolnwood
North Mac def. Staunton by forfeit
Hillsboro def. Staunton by forfeit
August 28 at Carlinville
9 a.m. - Carlinville vs. Lutheran
11 a.m. - Litchfield vs. Athens
1:30 p.m. - Lutheran vs. Litchfield
3:30 p.m. - Athens vs. Carlinville