The New Life Academy Eagles hosted sectional opponent Hastings on a beautiful fall afternoon with temperatures in the mid-60’s and a steady 13 mph breeze from the southeast. Fresh off a double overtime draw with league adversary Southwest Christian, the Eagles faced off against the Raiders at Bielenberg.
The game was well played with possession and scoring chances equal until the visitors caught the Eagles’ back line out of sorts with a through ball and a relatively easy breakaway goal at the 9 minute mark for a 1-0 advantage. The Eagles fought back and drew even at the 19 minute mark when Nate Mueller took a cross from Evan Atkinson, moved toward the goal from the far right and deposited it into the left side net and past the outstretched arm of the Raiders keeper.
The Raiders had the wind to their back and began to wear down the tired legs of the Eagles as the first half ground to conclusion. At the 37 minute mark, The Raiders forged into the lead, capitalizing on another NLA defensive lapse. The Eagles looked to draw even a minute later when Atkinson was brought down from behind in the 18 yard box and he was awarded a penalty kick. He struck the kick wide left and the scored remained 2-1 at the half.
The second half was a hard-fought battle. At the 70 minute mark, the Raiders scored their second goal under keeper Zach Thor’s arm on a break away run through the Eagles’ back line. The 3-1 score put the game out of reach notwithstanding a gutsy performance by the home squad over the final 10 minutes of the game. The Eagles never quit even though their ranks were depleted and their legs were heavy.
It was a war. Bodies were flying everywhere as the physical play intensified throughout the match. The Eagles played a spirited game with two starters out and Captain Charlie Tourek playing at 85% capacity with a tweaked left knee. Starters Brian Donahoo and Malachi Thomas were out of the line-up; Donahoo injured his foot the previous afternoon against Southwest Christian, and Thomas was forced to sit after a collision in the first half. Nevertheless, the Eagles kept fighting with a patch work line-up. It was one of the most physical contests of the season with the visitors frequently sending Eagle players to the turf without consequence. AJ Malley played well on defense, stepping up to disrupt play. Keeper Thor who made a number of outstanding saves. Overall, the lads played their hearts out but couldn’t generate that last pass or finish with authority.
The Eagles will get 48 hours to rest before taking on St. Croix Lutheran under the lights at East Ridge High School for Homecoming on Monday night. Come cheer them on. Go Eagles!
Note: Sports articles contributed by parent volunteers