Big second half keys 4-0 win for Clarke boys’ soccer
BERRYVILLE — For 40 minutes the Clarke County boys’ soccer team could not solve the riddle that was the William Monroe defense.
Passes didn’t connect, shots sailed wide and the Eagles trudged into halftime locked in a frustrating scoreless tie with the visiting Dragons.
“I think they did a heck of a job in that first half coming out and setting a defense that we had trouble breaking down,” said Clarke County coach Scott House. “We talked at the half about straightening some things out and getting balls where we wanted them instead of where they wanted them.”
Whatever House said certainly seemed to stick with his team.
Coming out in the second half with an intensity that was lacking earlier on, the Eagles dominated the final 40 minutes of play, riding a stout defense and four goals from senior forward Davey Hardesty to a 4-0 Bull Run District win.
It took Clarke County (3-1, 2-0) 13 minutes to get on the board in the second half, but a handball call in the box on Dragon defender Zachary Wright afforded Hardesty a penalty kick that he promptly placed into the lower-left corner and the Eagles were off and running.
Barely a minute later Hardesty took a pass from fellow senior Eric Hoyt and broke free of his defender down the center of the field.
His initial shot was blocked by the William Monroe goalkeeper, but Hardesty never quit on the play, tracking down the rebound and volleying it in for a 2-0 lead in the 54th minute.
“Davey’s a heck of a player and with Eric Hoyt up there with him they complement each other,” House said. “If you turn your back on one the other one’s going to sting you. They’ve been doing that all year.”
The Dragons had chances to get back in the game, most specifically on a throw in from the near corner that found the feet of junior Connor Higgins right in front of the goal.
Higgins’ initial shot was blocked by Eagles goalkeeper Danny O’Donnell, but the rebound wasn’t cleared and a pair of William Monroe players had their shots deflected by Clarke County defenders before junior George Novakowski finally was able to send get his foot on the ball and send it out of harm’s way.
“I think we just had a little more heart [in the second half] honestly, we really gave it our all,” said O’Donnell, who posted his second shutout of the season. “Getting the first goal felt great because it takes a lot of pressure off your back and we were able to just play our game.”
Still holding the two-goal lead late in the game, Hardesty put things away with two more scores, the first off a pass from junior forward Anthony Marasco and the second off an assist from Hoyt.
Scoring goals in bunches is nothing new for Hardesty — who totaled an area-best 33 last season — but he was quick to credit his teammates for putting him in a position to be successful Friday night.
“It was all my teammates tonight, they made great passes,” Hardesty said. “Eric Hoyt and Anthony Marasco made great passes on my three goals and it was basically a team effort to set them up.
“No one can say that was a one-man job because it was definitely set up by everyone else and the finishing job was easy.”
The second-half explosion came in stark contrast to a first half that saw William Monroe continuously deny Clarke County’s offensive attack.
Despite out-shooting the Dragons 10-5, and having a handful of point-blank shots, the Eagles could not break through and were left with a 0-0 tie thanks to their own defense keeping William Monroe at bay.
Luckily things changed in the second half.
“I was happy with how we responded. We were really looking for a good home win here tonight to keep our momentum going because we’ve got a challenge coming up next week,” House said. “We knew we needed to keep moving forward and we did that.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1