The Hillsboro High School boys soccer team finished out their South Central Conference schedule Thursday afternoon, Sept. 30, as they hosted the Litchfield Purple Panthers at the Sports Complex.
With plenty riding on the contest (territorial bragging rights, a perfect conference record and a third straight SCC title), there was plenty to play for and that’s all a team can ask for in late September, to be playing meaningful games.
It was also the last home game for arguably one of the most successful senior groups in program history as it was the last time seniors Gavin Matoush, Ayden Brewer, Keegan Murray, Matt Page, Devin Speiser, and Ethan Lentz would step on their home pitch.
With all of that hanging in the balance, the orange and black didn’t disappoint the Topper faithful, turning a 2-0 halftime lead into a 5-0 victory to complete a perfect SCC record and bringing home their third straight conference title.
The Toppers didn’t waste any time testing the Panthers and their standout goal keeper Cameron Crow as junior Adison Pollard put a shot on just 1:30 into the first. Crow would make the first of many nice saves on the shot and sent it up the other way.
But Hillsboro would keep knocking, keeping it in the Litchfield end for most of the first five minutes of the half. Seniors Gavin Matoush and Ethan Lentz would each send shots over the crossbar before Pollard, at the 6:20 mark of the frame, knocked one home to give the Toppers the 1-0 lead.
Hillsboro would then ratchet up the offense, especially possessing the ball, and that would pay off almost immediately as Lentz and junior Will Christian played connect the dots with some pinpoint passing at midfield as the duo would send a ball up to Matoush. From there, Matoush was off to the races beating Crow to the low right side putting the home team up 2-0.
Matoush would nearly add another just minutes later as Crow came way out of the net to play a loose ball and got caught in traffic, leaving the goal completely open. Junior Mason Osborn would make a terrific sliding play on Matoush’s shot to keep it from going in and Crow would make several more outstanding saves down the stretch in the first to keep the Hillsboro lead at 2-0.
When play resumed in the second, the Toppers once again used great passing to work around the Panthers but, as before, Crow was there every time, first with two sliding saves and then a diving effort.
Litchfield would do their best to keep up with the attack, but Hillsboro would finally get the best of them with 13:20 left as Pollard connected with Christian, who would bury the shot to put the Toppers up 3-0. He’d add a second two minutes later to make it 4-0 after senior Keegan Murray made an absolutely spectacular play to flick the ball up to himself and regain possession before playing it off to Christian, who nailed it home. Matoush would finish off the scoring with five minutes left as he took the lead pass from Lentz and walked it in to make it 5-0, sealing the win for the Toppers.
With the win, the Toppers remained undefeated in SCC play and were able to secure their third straight conference title. Hillsboro has only lost one SCC contest in the last three years, a 2-1 overtime loss to Gillespie last season.
The win improves the Toppers’ record to 12-5-2 on the season as they wrap up regular season play this afternoon at Breese Mater Dei.
The Toppers begin regional play next Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Altamont as they enter the postseason as the third overall seed in the subsectional and will face off against the winner of the Altamont versus Robinson match.
The match was one of three to end the week for Hillsboro, who lost to Taylorville on Sept. 29, and Pleasant Plains on Oct. 2. Drake Gasperson scored Litchfield’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to Taylorville, while Plains picked up a 1-0 win over the Panthers in the final minutes of Saturday’s contest.
Sept. 30 at Hillsboro
Litchfield 0 0 - 0
Hillsboro 2 3 - 5
Scoring: Hillsboro - Will Christian 2, Gavin Matoush 2, Adison Pollard 1.
Record: Hillsboro (12-5-2, 6-0); Litchfield (1-12-1, 1-3).