It wasn’t quite Rocky Balboa over Apollo Creed but after coming up on the short end to Hawken for at least 10 years, Kirtland’s 4-3 victory over the Hawks on Thursday was almost as improbable as the Italian Stallion’s epic victory over the Master of Disaster.
|Tommy Loncar had several key saves down the stretch|
“It’s a huge win,” said Kirtland coach John Valentic. “I think back to game one when we got drubbed 7-1 and how far we’ve come. It’s huge. The kids know it too. It’s probably been, and I’ll have to check the record books, but it’s been since 2001 or 2002 since we beat Hawken, so definitely 10 or 12 years, if not more. The kids know what it means. It’s a huge confidence boost.”
The Hornets, who improved to 2-1-2, didn’t land a lucky punch. They overcame an early deficit to take a 4-1 second half lead then held off the Hawks down the stretch.
“It wasn’t luck; it wasn’t a fluke,” Valentic said. “We earned the victory. They feel good about where we’re at this point in time.”
A fortunate bounce off the goal post led to Hawken’s first goal.
“Even now I still don’t know how we gave that goal up,” Valentic said. “It bounced off the post and maybe even off the goalie.”
Jordan Ianiro scored two goals and Luke Sabbath added one to put Kirtland ahead, 3-1, in the second half.
“Luke and Jordan were giving their defense fits with their speed,” Valentic said. “They were constantly putting pressure on them.”
The Hawks pushed the pace in the second half but the Hornets absorbed every punch the same way Rocky did against Creed.
Kirtland even added an insurance goal when Caleb Cardon found the net.
“He’s more of a defensive player but he got a volley and put it in,” Valentic said.
Hawken didn’t go down without a fight.
A penalty kick cut Kirtland’s lead to 4-2 and the Hawks added another goal from just outside the penalty area to trim the Hornet lead to just one.
“We knew they were going to come after us,” Valentic said. “We actually scored the counter goal and then it was pretty much trying to survive. We had some good chances but their goalie came up with some nice saves to deny us.”
The Hawks pounded first-year keeper Tommy Loncar but couldn’t break the Hornet goalie.
“He even got a hand on the penalty kick but it trickled in,” Valentic said. “Right at the end he had a big save too. Five games and one month into his soccer career, I can’t ask for more. He’s coming up big and the team is feeling confident around him.”
Kirtland travels to Wickliffe on Thursday.