Clinton opened up the 2-A soccer playoffs with an impressive first round win over Farmville Central on Saturday night. The Dark Horses used a second half offensive explosion to put away the lower seeded Jaguars, advancing to round two with a 9-0 shutout.
The teams locked up in a scoreless tie for over 15 minutes of the first half, and while the Dark Horses possessed the ball for most of the early going, they were unable to break through with a score. The Dark Horses finally got on the board when Peter Darden rolled a well placed ball into the box that Ivan Palencia met and quickly flicked the ball into the Jaguar goal. The Darden-Palencia connection gave the Dark Horses the 1-0 lead at 15:05.
The Jaguars were unfazed by the Dark Horse goal and their defense seemed even more determined to keep the Dark Horses at bay, stacking extra players in the box in a attempt to keep Clinton from getting off shots. In the 35th minute, Logan Spell took a pass from the wing, dribbled around a defender and found Ivan Ponce in front of the goal. Ponce fired the ball past the Jaguar goalie to extend the Dark Horse lead to 2-0.
Clinton continued to attack the goal, maintaining possession almost exclusively for the final five minutes of the half. But the stubborn Jaguars, with a couple of nice stops by the goalie, refused to give ground and the Dark Horses had to settle for a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the second half the Dark Horse coaching staff shuffled the deck, moving an extra player into the offensive attack and the strategy paid off. It only took just a little over three minutes for Clinton to add to the lead. Darden sent a short shot through traffic that bounced off a Jaguar in front of the goal, changing the ball’s direction, and sending it into the left corner for a 3-0 lead at the 43:21 mark.
At that point the flood gates seemed to open. Ponce got his second goal of the night, streaking down the middle, taking a Darden pass and blasting it past the diving goalie to make the score 4-0 at 48:20. Parker Norris got in the score book shortly afterwards when he intercepted a Jaguar pass about 35 yards out, took a couple of dribbles and fired a 20 yard laser like shot that skirted along the ground and just inside the right post for the 5-0 Dark Horse Lead at 55:19.
Reid Taylor got the next Clinton goal, stepping in front of a Farmville pass at the 18 yard line and firing a shot back toward the goal, totally handcuffing the goal keeper for a commanding 6-0 lead at the 59:13 mark. Darden andPalencia teamed up for the second time at 71:57 when Darden sped past a defender on the left wing and fired a pass to Palencia at the 6-yard line. Palencia one-touched the ball right between the keepers legs, boosting the Dark Horse lead to 7-0.
Darden continued to be a nemesis for the visitors when he alertly found a ball that had gotten behind the Jaguar goalie and was sitting conveniently right in front of the goal. Darden quickly flicked the ball into the goal, making the margin 8-0 at 74:48.
Just over a minute later, Darden found himself back in the thick of things again. Darden took a pass from Ponce and headed toward the top of the box, about 20 yards in front of the goal. Two Jaguar defenders converged on the sophomore and committed a vicious foul, sandwiching Darden, sending him to the turf writhing in pain.
After two teammates carried Darden from the playing surface the Clinton players huddled briefly before taking the free kick that resulted from the yellow card foul. When the Dark Horses broke their huddle, they formed a line of six players behind the ball and quickly started the play. Each of the first four players passed the ball, faking a kick, before Norris nudged the ball slightly backwards for next in line, Taylor, who sent the ball into the goal with authority, ending the match at 75:54 as the Dark Horses had scored the limit under the mercy rule.
After the game, the players celebrated briefly, but were obviously more concerned about their injured teammate Darden than they were with celebrating their first round win.
Clinton head coach Brad Spell was also very concerned about the injury.
“Farmville really packed it in on us tonight and we had a tough time scoring in the first half, but we missed some opportunities too. We changed up the offensive scheme in the second half going to a 4-4-2 alignment to put more pressure on their defense. We are very concerned about Peter’s leg. Hopefully there are no broken bones and he will be back for the second round.”
The Dark Horses got their 20th win of the year, moving to 20-2-1 on the season. The first round win advances Clinton to the second round where they will host Roanoke Rapids, who defeated Franklinton in the first round on Saturday night. The second round match is slated for Tuesday at the Dark Horse Soccer Complex with kickoff at 6:30 p.m.