After a trip to Jerseyville left the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team with a stinging 5-0 loss and a more painful blow to the roster as they lost two varsity starters to injury, the squad returned to the pitch Thursday afternoon, March 11, for their first home game of the season as the orange and black played host to the Pana Panthers.
The two teams would need all 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes more of overtime in an attempt to decide the tilt and, with darkness looming, would be forced to end in a scoreless tie.
As per South Central Conference by-laws, a conference match must have a decided winner so it typically would go straight to penalty kicks after the completed overtime had ended.
Luckily for the two teams, with a schedule compiled of several conference teams being able to see each other twice this year and not the typical one time a season, Thursday’s date was allowed to finish in the tie and the conference date to be decided when the two teams match up again on April 13. (Hey, it’s a season most didn’t think would happen. What’s another wrinkle in the plans?)
The Toppers, as stated above, were down two varsity starters in sophomore forward Will Christian and junior defender Devin Speiser, who were both injured at Jerseyville.
At first, their absence wouldn’t be noticed by Hillsboro as the home team controlled possession early and nearly broke through just minutes into the contest as a solid cross ball from junior Matt Page was redirected on net by sophomore Adison Pollard. Pollard would get his head on the ball but knock the ricochet over the crossbar, ending the drive.
The near miss would inspire the Toppers to keep up the attack as junior mid Ethan Lentz would rocket a shot on frames just seconds later after a failed Pana clear resulted in a loose ball in front, but the Panther keeper was up to the challenge and was there for the save.
Lentz would have two more chances in the middle minutes of the first as the junior would rock a shot off the crossbar and sail a free kick just wide a minute later, but the Toppers could never take that next step and the score would stay 0-0 at the break.
When play resumed in the second half, the Toppers started to feel the effects of the shorter bench and the limited availability of players as Pana was able to begin to run on Hillsboro.
Their drive would nearly pay dividends just 2:30 into the frame as a miscue on the part of the Topper back line allowed Pana a nearly free look on net.
With senior keeper Shaw Riggs out of the net, senior counterpart Frankie Passariello would make a spectacular play to break up the run and keep the Panthers off the board.
Pana would add another strike minutes later forcing Riggs to stand on his head to keep the visiting team honest and it was evident that the Panthers were knocking on the door.
It would stay a back and forth match up for the remaining time of regulation with each side trading chances. Lentz and the Toppers would nearly break the stalemate with 1:45 remaining in regulation as Hillsboro lined up for a free kick deep in the Panther end. The junior would push the shot just wide and the two teams would head into the mandatory two 10-minute overtime periods.
With the sun setting and the cloud cover not helping the situation either, both teams would play in near darkness with neither side really able to create anything substantial. At the end of OT, the officials would call the game as a result of darkness and administration from both schools would agree to maintain the tie and adjust the conference schedule and slide the more meaningful game to April 13.
The Toppers return to action this afternoon as they host the Taylorville Tornados at the Hillsboro Sports Complex before traveling to Vandalia on Tuesday, March 16. Hillsboro will continue the full boat of games as they play Thursday and Saturday in a big match up against Springfield High School.
March 11 at Hillsboro
Hillsboro 0, Pana 0
Goalkeeper: Hillsboro - Shaw Riggs.