Typically a flat, smooth surface with no irregularities or flaws (character) would be the type of surface one would be able to navigate easily and without much hindrance in terms of obstacles to overcome.
In fact, that surface might be the one of choice to anyone walking, running, or jumping. Riding a bike uphill? Nah, you’d take the flat route if you could. Take the winding trail? Here’s a perfectly good straight one.
For the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team, however, Monday’s game at North Mac was a bit of an anomaly. A flat surface with no bumps, holes, or eight inch grass clods proved to be a place they would stumble as the faster ground coupled with the squad’s inexperience on the turf left them scratching their heads and a 2-0 loss to start the 2021 campaign.
From the opening whistle, both teams seemed evenly matched as each tried to find their footing and get back into the swing of varsity soccer.
In fact, the Toppers would nearly strike first as a great flurry in front of the North Mac net nearly resulted in Hillsboro senior mid Gavin Matoush pounding one past Panther netminder Austin Dohleman. Dohleman would be there for the save though and send it back up the other way.
At the 4:04 mark of the half, North Mac would have a good look of their own on net as a corner deep in the Hillsboro end sent a nice looping ball right in front of the cage.
Sophomore keeper Mitchell Lowe was right there on the read to snatch it out of the air though to stymie the attack and it would be like that for the opening minutes of the half with both sides exchanging attacks up and down the field.
At the 7:30 mark of the half, senior defender Matt Page would bring the ball down the right side and touch off to fellow senior defender Devin Speiser. Speiser would make a little space for himself and plant a shot on but the shot would get deflected wide and out of play.
The Toppers would do the same on their next trip down the field as senior sweeper Ayden Brewer would send a shot of his own just wide but that near miss would lead to the best look on net for either team just seconds later.
At the midway point of the first, sophomore sweeper Griffen Hughes worked the ball deep into the Panther defensive zone and drew much of the North Mac back line towards him. This attention allowed senior mid Keegan Murray to work his way up the weak side.
Hughes would throw a hard shot on frame that would deflect down, setting off a wild flurry in front. With a crazy second bounce, Murray would find himself all alone in front and with Dohleman completely out of position, but he would redirect the ball just wide right and out of bounds ending the play.
With 6:20 left in the half, the Panthers would capitalize on a Hillsboro miscue as a miscommunication in front allowed North Mac standout Cole Hatalla to gain possession and send one past Lowe, giving the Panthers the 1-0 lead.
Hillsboro would continue the attack and would get one final great chance in the waning seconds of the first as junior midfielder Will Christian would get fouled hard from behind, resulting in a Topper free kick just outside the 18 yard box.
Junior forward Adison Pollard would put the shot on, forcing Dohleman to make the save, but the rebound would trickle out in front. The orange black wouldn’t be able to get a foot on the loose ball though and both teams would go into the break.
When play resumed in the second half, the Toppers came out gunning and nearly tied up the contest just 1:20 as Christian created a bit of a breakaway taking a nice lead pass from Pollard and was fouled hard from behind. Pollard was called on to take the free kick and placed a great ball on frame that Dohleman once again mishandled. As before, though, Hillsboro would be unable to get a foot on the putback and the drive would end.
At the 4:25 mark of the half, Hillsboro would have another oh-so-close moment as a hard shot on from Christian was punched up and over by Dohleman, resulting in a Topper corner kick. The visitors were unable to convert on the corner, however and the Panthers would add an insurance goal soon after, making it 2-0.
Hillsboro would have its chances down the stretch, very nearly cutting the lead in half as sophomore forward Logan Murray sent a ball just wide with 7:15 left, but that was as close as they’d come dropping the season opener 2-0.
Fortunately, they had another game two days later and rebounded with a 3-0 win over Taylorville. Gavin Matoush, Will Christian and Matt Page would all score for the Toppers, who improved to 1-1 with the win.
Next up for Hillsboro is Lincolnwood, at North Mac, at 11 a.m.
August 23 at Virden
Hillsboro 0 0 - 0
North Mac 1 1 - 2
Goals: North Mac - Cole Hatalla 2. Goalkeepers: Hillsboro - Mitchell Lowe; North Mac - Austin Dohleman.
Records: North Mac (1-0); Hillsboro (0-1).