Battling their way through highly touted opponents in the Catholic Youth Council tournament last week, the O’Fallon Township High School soccer Panthers emerged with a 1-1- 1 record.
OTHS head soccer coach Jason Turkington’s squad book-ended their tourney test with a pair of impressive victories over Belleville East and Marion to boost their season record to 7-4-2.
A date with the Lancers began the run of games for the Panthers, and the local squad pounded their Southwestern Conference foes 5-1.
O’Fallon broke open a tightly contested first half with three unanswered goals in the second half.
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Belleville East was able to put one shot past OTHS goal-keeper Joe Guithes in the first half to trail only 2-1 at the intermission, but the Panther offense kicked it into high gear in the final 40 minutes. The Panthers relied on a balanced attack that saw goals from five different OTHS players – Aris Cesa, Jordan Ellis, Adrean Love, Nathan Martin and Preston Porter.
In first-round action in the CYC tournament, the Panthers faced Vianney, ranked in the Top 10 in Missouri high school polls. Vianney scored first and preserved their slim lead for more than 60 minutes.
With less than five minutes left, however, the OTHS squad capitalized on a defensive mistake with senior Aris Cesa firing in a shot off Dylan Gerstenecker’s assist.
Defensively, the Panthers continued their exceptional play, preserving a 1-1 tie.
The Panthers started sluggishly in their second round pool matchup against St. Mary’s.
Constant pressure finally produced results for the Panthers, however, as they tied the game and eventually blasted their way to a 4-1 win. Jordan Ellis led the offensive attack with two goals.
Ben Koenig and Austin Wilkerson added one goal each to give O’Fallon a little breathing room in the final minutes of the contest.
Chaminade, another ranked team, was the final hurdle for the Panthers in pool play.
One error at the seven minute mark of the first half was enough to doom the OTHS squad.
Chaminade broke through the O’Fallon defense and scored the lone goal of the game. The Panthers’ offense was successfully throttled by Chaminade as O’Fallon managed only four legitimate shots on goal. The Panthers rediscovered their offense in their next regular season contest against the Marion Wildcats.
Austin Wilkerson powered in three goals to lead O’Fallon to a 5-2 victory. The game paralleled O’Fallon’s win over Belleville East in that the two teams were locked in a struggle through the first 40 minutes, ending in a 2-2 tie.
A more concerted defensive effort in the second half was the difference. Guithes’ eight saves provided the impetus for a more positive effort on the offensive end of the field.
O’Fallon scored three times in the final 40 minutes to break the deadlock. Besides Wilkerson’s hat trick, the Panthers also got goals from Ben and Jake Koenig.
“Our kids played very well in the tournament, and it spilled over into our regular season contests during the past week,” Turkington said. “We had a little more consistent play – especially on the defensive end. Guithes was great in goal, and our defenders did a good job marking their opponents.”
The Panthers look to continue their strong play in the upcoming week with regular-season road games scheduled against Belleville West and Chatham-Glenwood.