Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski
Mattoon has done to Newton what no other team has accomplished.
The Green Wave (10-3-1) defense kept the high-flying Eagles’ offense off the scoreboard for the first time this season in a 1-0 victory during MHS’s 20th annual boys soccer tournament.
“They’re really good,” Mattoon varsity coach Ryan Ghere said. “I saw by their record. I thought our back four and keeper did an outstanding job in keeping them in check. They (Newton) had some chances but even when they did there was pressure on them.”
Newton’s Carder Reich, second in the state in goals scored, was continuously shadowed by either Mattoon’s Mick Porter and Ty Eastin. Reich had two quality opportunities early in the first half that didn’t get past Mattoon’s Jason Skocy.
“They (Mick Porter and Ty) did a nice job,” Ghere said. “It’s hard to guard that guy when he’s out wide and he cuts diagonally across the field. Ty did an excellent job of staying with him, and Mick just cut off all the passes. That’s two games in a row that Mick’s played extremely well for us this week. They took him away – one was in front of him, and one was behind him pretty much the entire night.”
With just under nine minutes left to play, Trent Hettinger took a pass from Quincy Hamilton, who was a few feet past the midfield line, and kicked the ball ahead of him, just past the defender and corraled it before punching it in off the left goal for a 1-0 lead that would last the rest of the match.
“We got the ball out in space to Trent, and that’s how he got the goal, and gave us more chances,” Ghere said.
Reich dribbled into the goal box at 6:44 left with seemingly the best opportunity of the half for the Eagles, but he belted a shot off the left post that ricocheted into play
The second half turned into a free-for-all as both teams raced the ball up and down the field until the last five minutes when Mattoon’s Jace Gardner regularly pushed the ball into the offensive end against Newton’s Leo Weber.
“The second half was just thirty minutes of helter-skelter, back-and-forth back-and-forth,” Ghere said. “Defenders on both sides had to be tired. Good thing it was a 60 minute game and not an 80 minute game tonight.”
Ghere thought the match was played by two evenly matched teams.
“Defensively, we played well,” he said. “Both teams had a chances that they didn’t convert on. Set pieces – I thought Trent had it on the free kick. Both teams had chances on the corners. I think it was two pretty even teams. We just found a way to put one in the net and they didn’t. It was heck of a game.”
He praised Jackson Whalin and Quentin Hamilton for their hustle.
“Jackson ran so many balls down in the corner and Quentin was a man in the air. He won so many 50/50 balls and cleared balls away.”
Ghere was pleased with their effort.
“I told the boys that’s a good as a game we’ve played defensively in probably two or three years. If we keep playing like that, we’re going to be tough to beat in the postseason,” he said.
Mattoon continues play Saturday against a 5-11 Olney squad followed by a 1:30 p.m. against Lincoln, which is 16-0-1.