Bellefontaine 3 New Knoxville 3

On a beautiful mid-summer afternoon Bellefontaine traveled to New Knoxville to take on the Rangers. The opening match of a season is usually filled with an anxious anticipation and today would be no exception. The young Rangers were a little nervous upon taking the field and it took some time before they found their legs. 

Bellefontaine dominated the first half of action. Nick Gingerich from his midfielder position and especially Aaron Wisner from his forward position kept the New Knoxville defenders and goalkeeper Jace Kuck under constant pressure. The Rangers held firm, but one got the sense it was only a matter of time before the Chieftains would break through. At the 25:32 mark Wisner almost achieved that breakthrough banging a hard driven shot off the near post.

It wasn't until 20 minutes later that the Chieftains were finally able to penetrate the Rangers goal. At the 4:52 mark of the first half Bellefontaine forward Ross Angelo found the back of the net to give his  team a 1 - 0 lead.

Up to this point most of the match had been played in the Rangers half of the field. The pace of play had started out extremely slow as both teams tried to find and establish a rhythm to play in. Both teams played a physical style that contributed to the choppy play. It was good to see two veteran officials on this match - Greg Reynolds and Roger Scott.  Reynolds in particular does an outstanding job and I have always appreciated how he communicates with the players in-game.  He doesn't have to blow his whistle a lot because of this. It is a pleasure to watch him referee a match.

Just under two minutes of Angelo's goal Bellefontaine would strike again. This time it was Gingerich who struck post with teammate Xavier Brown pouncing on and blasting the rebound past Kuck and into the net.  This followed a sequence of shots by the Chieftains that New Knoxville struggled to clear out of their penalty area.  The Rangers were back on their heels and it looked like the rout might be on.

Halftime arrived just in the nick of time for New Knoxville. Seeing his team down 0-2 Rangers coach Marc Dyrness needed a timeout to refocus his team and remind them of how they wanted to play. With no timeouts in soccer the 10 minutes allotted for halftime can be critical. The team that utilizes them best often wins the second half of the match.

The Rangers came out with an urgency in their play that had been missing for most of the first half.  After being forced to defend for much of the match a complete change of attitude seemed to have taken place during those 10 minutes of rest at halftime.  New Knoxville came out attacking and the results were almost immediate as at the 41:35 mark of the match Ethan Kuck beat Chieftain goalkeeper Tyler Jones from the right flank to pull the Rangers with one.

Bellefontaine did not panic and as play ensued the action became more transitional in nature with both teams probing deep into their opponents territory over the next 10 minutes. At the 50:01 mark, in what became a trend, Wisner again banged a shot off the New Knoxville post.. This time the Rangers successfully cleared the ball and began a counter attack that would lead to Ethan Kuck scoring a game-tying goal at the 51:21 mark. This time Kuck struck from the left flank.

With the match now even a little chippiness began to set in. Play became a bit more physical as did the verbal exchanges between players. The referee's also came under verbal assault more frequently. Ah, the intensity of a closely contested high school soccer contest!

At the 59:05 mark of the match the Chieftains won a corner kick and in the ensuing scramble in front of the Ranger net Bellefontaine's Matt Voss was able to head the ball past Jace Kuck to give his team the lead once again.

With time dwindling down the Rangers kept probing the Chieftains defense looking for a tying goal but were turned away time and again. Finally with just 3:44 remaining on the clock New Knoxville won a corner kick and midfielder Josh Yeatts was able to run the ball into the net past Jones to even the score at 3 all.

For the match I, unofficially, had Bellefontaine with 16 shots on goal. New Knoxville's Jace Kuck came up big with 11 saves and teammates Jonah Logeman and Ryan Allen with one save a piece. The Rangers had 5 shots on goal with Chieftain goalkeeper Tyler Jones being credited with 2 saves.

This was highly entertaining high school soccer match. Well contested by both teams. Physical, but clean. A little chippiness for added spice. Well done by both sides and the referee crew as well. I'm sure the Rangers would have liked to give new head coach Marc Dyrness a win in his return to the high school sidelines, but this is a solid result that establishes a foundation they can build upon.

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