The Highland soccer Bulldogs’ home and Mississippi Valley Conference opener against Civic Memorial on Thursday was a clear example of how the teams’ records entering the game would in no way foreshadow of what was to come.
Highland came in with a 1-2 record while the Eagles were soaring with a perfect 5-0 mark.
The Bulldogs buried four goals in the first 15 minutes and could have pumped in at least two, three more before finishing on a fifth marker just before halftime to ground the Eagles with a 5-1 victory.
Senior forward Brent Rapien and junior forward Evan Herman provided a plethora of offense, pumping in a pair of goals apiece while Rapien also assisted on one of Herman’s two.
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Junior forward Andrew Roach added the other goal and senior goalkeeper Luke Jones was hardly tested, making just two saves to even his and the team’s record at 2-2.
“The first half was outstanding,” said Highland coach Josh Oswald. “We had movement off the ball, there were second and third runs happening, and we created a whole bunch of offense and were able to get four goals in the first 15 minutes. And their goalie played really well in that first half. He made made some very nice saves and robbed us of a couple of goals.”
Highland’s first goal came in the first five minutes as Rapien converted on a penalty kick after CM was called for a handball call inside the penalty box (inside the 18-yard line).
Rapien’s first goal was credited as the game winner and seemed to open the floodgates as three more would be pounded in the back of CM’s net over the next 10 minutes.
A short time later, senior midfielder Ollie Pfeiffer fed Herman breaking free inside the 18 and he buried a low shot to his left that beat the keeper inside the near post.
Not long after, junior midfielder Cory Stieb hit Rapien racing toward the goal and he showed a deft touch by lofting a shot high over the goalie.
Rapien then set up a goal as he assisted on Herman’s second marker of the game that also was a low shot inside the near post. It was Herman’s team-leading fourth tally of the season.
Roach booted a low left-footed shot inside the far post in the final couple of minutes to break through for his first goal of the year to cap off the scoring for the Bulldogs.
Highland’s play dropped off some after halftime. CM got the only goal around midway through the second half, but it mattered little to the outcome.
“We still have got to play all 80,” Oswald said. “We started the first 20 minutes really well. We didn’t play bad but in the second half we went down a little bit. Once we put a whole game together, then we’ll be satisfied.”
After being shut out the first two matches of the season, the Bulldogs have netted nine goals in the past two. But the week ahead will not be an easy one.
“We’ve got a tough week coming up with Triad (Tuesday at home) and Collinsville (at home), but this is two good wins in a row,” Oswald said. “Hopefully, we can build off this and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”