On a beautiful fall evening, the New Life Academy Eagles traveled to the home field of sectional opponent Highland Park for a contest under the lights. Last year, the Scots edged the Eagles in a 1-0 result. This year, the Scots have started fast with impressive victories over Humboldt, Holy Angels and St. Thomas. On paper, this was a mis-match. On the field, it was a fantastic game. The Eagles rose to the occasion and played their best game to date against the stiffest competition they have faced.
The first half was well played and the score was 0-0 at the whistle. The Scots had the greater time of possession but only generated long shots on goal which keeper Zach Thor handled cleanly and easily. Charlie Tourek generated most of the Eagle’s offensive movement in the half with several well placed free and corner kicks but the visitors could not manage to get a head or a foot on them. He also made a nifty move and blasted a quality shot on goal from distance but to no avail. It was the Eagles only shot on goal of the half.
The Eagles seemed a little surprised to be even with the home squad going into the half and one could sense their confidence mounting. They started the second half with purpose. At the 47 minute mark, Tourek turned on the afterburners and beat a gaggle of defenders down the right sideline. He delivered a beautiful low cross into the box which Nate Mueller one-timed into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. The lead was somewhat short-lived, however, when Thor could not control a free kick from distance. There was a mad scramble right in front of the net and the defense could not clear the ball. A Scot poked it in from point blank range to tie the game at 1-1.
At the 67 minute mark, Mueller was fouled from behind in the 18 yard box and the Eagles were awarded a penalty kick. Evan Atkinson struck the PK, low, left and past the keeper for a 2-1 Eagle lead. Coach Rupp then shuffled the line up and put captains Atkinson and Tourek at center mid. The duo locked down the midfield constantly frustrating the Scots and generated some offensive counter-attacks. Unfortunately, the warm evening and hard physical play began to take a toll on the Eagles as legs became heavy and cramping became evident. The Scots applied desperate pressure which the visitors contained until the 79 minute mark when the Eagles failed to clear a ball from the box and surrendered a second goal from point blank range. At the end of regulation the score was tied at 2-2.
The teams played two 5 minute overtimes but neither could score. After 90 minutes of hard fought and physical play, the game ended in a 2-2 draw. In certain respects, the Eagles were unlucky not to have won. On the other hand, a tie with a much larger and higher ranked opponent felt like a win. Certainly, the entire team can feel very good about how they played together. If they play the rest of their games like this evening, they will lose very few of them. Tourek, Atkinson and Thor had great games as did Mueller. The defense played well overall despite giving up two point blank shots. This game should be a confidence booster and a great encouragement as the team prepares to take on league opponent Maranatha at Belienberg tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope those tired crampy legs recover in time for the Eagles second game within 17 hours. But then again, 15-18 year olds heal overnight. Go Eagles!
Note: Sports articles contributed by parent volunteers