DENVER — Following an intense physical game marked by yellow cards and aggressive plays, the East Lincoln Mustangs topped the Bandys Trojans in a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at David Clark Stadium.
East Lincoln head coach Jason Dragoon was more than proud to see his squad rise above the Trojans 1-0 lead at halftime and score three goals in the match’s second half.
“We missed quite a few chances in the first half,” he said, “and weren’t really happy with the halftime score.”
The home team incorporated some field adjustments in the final half in order to have better ball possession and construct “a more consistent attack,” Dragoon said.
While the Mustangs maintained the ball at the game’s start, it was their Catawba County opponent who first launched the ball at a net. East Lincoln freshman Blake Strupp impressed fans on offense with several attempts on goal throughout the match, including a shot right past the post at the three-minute mark. He again showed his shooting skills at the 11-minute mark with shot blocked by a dive from his opponent’s goalkeeper.
Five minutes later, referees yellow carded Dragoon. It was the first of four yellow cards handed out to individuals on both teams throughout the match.
At the 21-minute mark, the Trojans lit up the scoreboard with a point by starter Armando Rivera. East Lincoln senior goalkeeper Josh Vance’s departure from the mouth of the goal for a few seconds gave Rivera the short-lived opportunity he needed to maneuver around Vance and secure a shot, giving his team the lead.
After the referee blew his whistle seconds later to start back the game, a second yellow card was administered to a Trojan player.
Mustangs senior James Holmes stood out among his team’s defensive line with how he consistently blocked hard shots from his opponents during the rest of the half, keeping the score margin at just one point.
In the second half, the Mustangs finally cheered their first goal at the 11-minute mark with a successful shot by senior Darin Salter. During the same minute, referees yellow carded a second Trojan player.
Sophomore teammate Garrett Reavis followed two minutes later with a second team goal, giving East Lincoln the lead they’d been fighting for all match.
Reavis’s goal stemmed from a direct kick near the 18-yard line. After his initial shot deflected off a wall of Bandys players, he immediately popped the ball back toward the goal, sinking it into the net.
Midway through the half, a third Bandys player received the brunt of referees’ card frenzy, getting the fourth and final yellow card of the match.
Dragoon noted how the orange and white squad hit a “low spot” later in the half, allowing Bandys to again take the lead with only four minutes left to play. Trojan starter Zach Beresford obtained his team’s second goal. Simultaneous to launching the ball, he fell to the ground, creating a pause in play. He was eventually removed from the field due to an injury.
“We just dropped in and struggled getting our attack going and made some panic mistakes,” Dragoon said.
The tie game had Mustangs’ fans and players on edge in the game’s final minutes. However, just a minute after the visiting team tied the scoreboard, East Lincoln freshman Brett Shanklin secured his team’s third and final goal, giving the home team the victory they “deserved,” Dragoon said.
He praised his team for “improving at a very fast pace,” giving him great confidence about the season’s future.
“We are significantly better than two weeks ago,” he said. Dragoon credits much of his team’s early success to battling tough, non-conference opponents at the season’s start.
“I am very excited for the boys,” he said. “They are working so hard to fill the shoes of the 13 seniors who graduated by rebuilding our team as quickly as possible. We have a lot of potential. We are going to surprise some teams later in the year.”