By Brandon Anicich
Oak Ridge High’s varsity boys soccer program hosted Ponderosa Thursday night at home, jumping on a timid Bruin performance in the first half en route to a 3-1 victory.
From the opening kick, Ponderosa walked on eggshells, failing to attack aggressively and pursue 50-50 balls with tenacity. Sensing that, Oak Ridge scored three goals in the first 14 minutes.
“We wanted to start the match with intensity,” Oak Ridge head coach Joe Champion said. “And the first 20-25 minutes we took advantage of the opportunities we had.”
Justin Bethke opened up the scoring, finding a way through Bruin keeper Josh Israel in the third minute of play. Sixty seconds later, Oak Ridge’s spark plug Hunter Tully wound up on the finishing end of a great passing scheme to put another in the net.
“That was a beautiful team goal,” Champion said. “Great communication and Hunter finished well.”
Attacker Alex Piatak, an aggressive forward, worked to get a shot through in the 13th minute and found a way to bump Oak Ridge’s lead by another goal.
After 20 minutes, Ponderosa turned a complete 180 and put forth 60 minutes of hard-nosed, physical soccer.
“The boys played extremely well once they got over that initial period of being delicate with the ball,” Bruin coach Greg Spangler said. “They were aggressive, they communicated well and played exceptional soccer — we just could not afford to suffer from those 20 minutes where they weren’t showing up to play.”
Israel, in placed of injured Curtis Goldsmith, kept Oak Ridge quiet for the rest of the match. Injuries have plagued Ponderosa throughout the season but what the Bruins were short on with depth they have made up for with determination.
“You have to give credit to them,” Champion said. “It’s hard when you go down by three goals in any match — but you didn’t see them (Ponderosa) give up or ease off.”
Ponderosa’s biggest threat up front was Cameron Spencer who took on two and sometimes three defenders at once in an effort to pressure Oak Ridge’s goal. The effort finally paid off late in the second half as Spencer was fouled inside Oak Ridge’s box — resulting in a penalty kick that the senior put away with emphasis.