After a tough start to their season, the Litchfield-Gillespie boys soccer team seems to be hitting its stride at the right time with three straight wins.
Sophomore forward Drake Gasperson scored eight of Litchfield’s 16 goals in a pair of 8-0 victories over Vandalia on Oct. 6, and East Alton-Wood River on Oct. 7 that lifted the Panthers’ record to 4-12-1 on the year.
Goals came fast and furious against the Vandals on Wednesday, with Litchfield staking themselves to a 5-0 lead by halftime.
Gasperson would get the first two goals within 13 seconds of one another as he took a pass from Spencer Hoehl for goal number one just 4:10 into the game. Sam Reid assisted on goal number two at the 4:23 mark as Litchfield was off and running.
Nate Fetter added an unassisted goal just two minutes later and Gasperson completed his hat trick before 16 minutes had ticked off the clock, with an assist by Leo Page.
That would be the last goal for a while, before Page got one of his own on a pass from Nolan Ziesler with four and a half minutes to play in the first half, giving Litchfield a 5-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, new faces brought on three more goals as Cameron Crow (coming out of his goalkeeper spot to play the field), Keenan Logan and Spencer Hoehl all found the back of the net in the mercy rule shortened half.
East Alton-Wood River
As good as the Vandalia match went, the win over East Alton-Wood River was just as successful for the Panthers.
Playing on their home field in the regular season finale, Litchfield pressed the Oilers early, but weren’t able to break through until the midway point of the match, when Sam Reid found Drake Gasperson for the first of the sophomore forward’s five goals.
Goal number two for Gasperson came quickly after goal number one as he made it 2-0 24 seconds later.
After Gasperson’s brace, Spencer Hoehl got in on the act after Anthony Bader cleared away an Oiler offensive opportunity deep in Litchfield’s zone. A few quick touches later and Hoehl found himself alone in front for the first of his three scores on the day.
With 7:01 left in the half, the senior lit the lamp again, drilling a hard shot inside the near post after a poor clearance by the East Alton-Wood River defense on a Litchfield corner kick.
Hoehl’s goal was the last of the half, but Litchfield would waste little time in getting back on the scoreboard in the second half. Just 30 seconds into the new period, Gasperson took a pass from Hoehl and shucked a defender to slot in a shot from 10-yards out to make it 5-0.
Two minutes later he scored again, patiently waiting for the Oiler goalkeeper to come out for a long ball in the box, then touching the ball around the prone goalie for an open netter that made it 6-0.
With 25:49 left, Gasperson completed his “glut,” the unofficial term for a five-goal game in soccer as he curled one into the top corner from 15-yards out to cut the remaining time in half.
Hoehl finished off the scoring for Litchfield with a breakaway following a free kick with 9:55 to play as the Panthers picked up win number four.
Cameron Crow and sophomore back-up keeper would be rarely tested and emerged from the two games with a pair of shutouts.
The Panthers will have some time to work out any last minute kinks this week, before starting regional play on Saturday, Oct. 16, at home against Effingham. The winner of that game moves on to play Civic Memorial, the second seed in the subsectional, on the Eagles’ home turf at the Bethalto Sports Complex.
October 6 at Vandalia
Litchfield 5 3 - 8
Vandalia 0 0 - 0
Scoring: Litchfield - Drake Gasperson (Spencer Hoehl); Drake Gasperson (Sam Reid); Nate Fetter (unassisted); Drake Gasperson (Leo Page); Leo Page (Nolan Ziesler); Cameron Crow (unassisted); Keenan Logan (unassisted); Spencer Hoehl (unassisted).
October 7 at Litchfield
EAWR 0 0 - 0
Litchfield 4 4 - 8
Scoring: Litchfield - Drake Gasperson (Sam Reid); Drake Gasperson (unassisted); Spencer Hoehl (unassisted); Spencer Hoehl (unassisted); Drake Gasperson (Spencer Hoehl); Drake Gasperson (unassisted); Drake Gasperson (unassisted); Spencer Hoehl (unassisted).
Record: Litchfield (4-12-1, 3-3).
Civic Memorial Regional
Bethalto Sports Complex
Saturday, Oct. 16
Match 1 at 11 a.m.: (9) Effingham at (8) Litchfield
Wednesday, October 20
Match 2 at 5 p.m.: (2) Civic Memorial vs. Winner Match 1
Match 3 at 4:30 pm: (3) Mattoon vs. (7) Charleston (at Charleston H.S.)
Saturday, October 23
Match 4 at 3 p.m.: Winner Match 2 vs. Winner Match 3