By Ryan Buck
The term “prevent defense” is not copyrighted for American football as the Crestview boys soccer team found out in their district semifinal contest Tuesday night.
Visiting Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas scored two goals on four first-half shots, withstood 25 Rebels shots and hung on for a 2-1 victory that eliminated top-seeded Crestview from the Division III tournament.
“Once you get a two-goal lead in the playoffs, and they have a limited bench so they don’t pull a lot of guys off the field, you could just tell they were playing for the 2-0 win or 2-1 win,” said Crestview coach Jonathan Kinkead. “You score two goals on four shots, that’s huge.”
Five minutes into the game, the fourth-seeded Knights earned a corner kick to the right of the Rebels’ goal. Keegan Gilbert sliced a bending cross that teammate Anthony Bucceri headed home to give the Knights an early 1-0 lead.
“When I first took it, I thought I had hit it badly and it ended up going straight for [Bucceri] and he headed it back post,” Gilbert said.
Knights coach Mike Fetters could not have asked for anything better, he said, especially in a road game.
“The faster you can get goals in high school soccer, the faster you can get a team to start to panic and things of that nature,” Fetters said.
The Rebels never panicked, but dominated the first half as much as possible without actually leading.
At the 30-minute mark, Tony Marr’s left-footed pass perfectly led Rebels forward Greg Bable, as cold-blooded a goal-scorer as one will find locally. Before he could get a shot off, Knights defender Matt Miller swooped in and knocked Bable aside.
With 21 minutes remaining in the first half, Gilbert slipped past Crestview’s defenders on one of few offensive runs the Knights created.
“We played a beautiful through-ball and their center back missed it,” Gilbert said. “Their [goalkeeper] came out and I thought he was going to grab it, but I caught it with my left foot and flicked it into the back of the net.”
Ahead 2-0, Fetters, wary of the Rebels’ scorers, retreated six Knights defenders to the back line.
“I knew we had a little bit more of a defensive presence than Crestview does,” Fetters said. “We have a little bit more of a chance to dominate or play much better if we defend against them instead of attacking.”
At the 16-minute mark of the first, Knights goalkeeper Jason Barnett denied another Bable attempt, this time off a rebound. At the 9:45 mark, Bable out-jumped Barnett, but his header popped wide right. In the half’s final minute, Joey Mellinger’s open header sailed just over the crossbar.
The Knights’ defensive phalanx tightened in the second half, but Bable finally broke through when he smashed home a rebound with 10 minutes left.
Barnett, who made five second-half saves, tipped away Caleb McGath’s 30-yard boot just seconds later. As time ticked away, he denied two solid shots from Rebels midfielder Nick Dean.
“It’s really hard to score when there’s 11 guys in your way,” Kinkead said.