The Highland High School boys soccer team has had a bumpy 3-5 start to the season.
“We have had a rough start for sure, but we are not ready to give up by any means,” Highland coach Josh Oswald said. “We have had some red cards, we have had some injuries and we have had a player quit the team, but we hope we can get some consistency and continuity going forward.”
A bright spot for the Bulldogs has been the play of senior forward Evan Herman, who has pumped in eight goals thus far. Six of Herman’s markers have come in the team’s two wins, an 8-1 victory at Civic Memorial on Aug. 31, which was followed by a 5-0 triumph at Father McGivney on Sept. 2.
But there has not been enough overall team production. Highland, which has been shut out in three of its eight games and only scored one goal in three others, racked up 13 of its 16 total goals in two victories over CM and Father McGivney.
In addition, Herman has outscored the rest of the team, 9-7.
On Saturday in their home opener at Glik Park, the Bulldogs got back on the winning track with a 2-1 win on penalty kicks over visiting Mater Dei. Highland won PKs by the final tally of 5-3.
The Knights grabbed a 1-0 lead on an unassisted first-half goal from Banco Lo, only to see Highland answer back in the second half on Herman’s ninth marker of the campaign off an assist from Gehrs.
The game remained deadlocked until penalty kicks. The Bulldogs converted all five of their PKs. They were scored by Herman, Sikora, Linhart, Gehrs and Roach.
Herman also played goal for Highland during PKs, and he saved Mater Dei’s first attempt. The Bulldogs ultimately won them 5-3 after the Knights did not need to take their final attempt.
“Any time you can get a W, it is a great feeling, and the boys fought hard to come back and earn the win,” Oswald said. “You hate to do it in PKs, but I asked (Mater Dei coach) James (Arnold) before the game, and he agreed to play with PKs. We are going to PKs in conference play this year, so there will be no more ties in conference games. In the end, it was good to win in PKs, and it was good practice for us now that we are going to PKs in conference play.”
Going into the Mater Dei game, Highland was coming off back-to-back losses to Triad (3-1 on Sept. 5) and Collinsville (4-0 on Sept. 7).
Herman notched HHS’ lone goal in the two games off an assist from Gehrs.
Triad received a goal each from Jaden Deatherage, Zach Kraabel and Colton Clark. Deatherage and Grant Keller each added one assist for the Knights.
Reiss Naylor made seven saves in goal for Triad, while Field stopped seven of the Knights’ eight shots on goal.
In Highland’s 5-0 win at Father McGivney on Sept. 2, Herman pounded the back of the net with four of his team’s five goals. He also had an assist. Smith scored the other tally for the Bulldogs, and Roach and Gehrs also each added one helper. Fields turned away three shots on goal to earn his first career shutout.
In the Bulldogs’ 8-1 win at CM on Aug. 31, Herman and fellow senior Andrew Roach each netted a pair of goals, with Roach also doling out three assists and Herman also dishing out a couple of helpers.
Chipping in one goal apiece were senior Drake Gehrs and juniors Bryce Smith, Nick Sikora and Zach Linhart. Smith also added two assists.
In addition, senior Cory Stieb had one assist and junior goalkeeper Riley Field only had to make one save for the Bulldogs.
During the season-opening Metro Cup Tournament, the Bulldogs lost all three games and were outscored 12-1 against top-notch competition at Belleville West. Highland was shut out 4-0 by host Belleville West and 5-0 by O’Fallon before falling 3-1 to Marion to close it out.
Herman recorded Highland’s only goal in the three tournament games.