GREENFIELD — After a seven day layoff between matches, the Greenfield-Central Cougars were refreshed, ready and eager to attack.
On Thursday night at home against rival New Palestine, the Cougars made good on their intentions, but nothing came easy.
Stuck in a scoreless tie through nearly 57 minutes, a pair of goals in the second half were enough to get back in the win column as Greenfield-Central won 2-0.
“After a loss, it’s really difficult to wait (seven days) until your next one. It was a long week,” Greenfield-Central head coach Bobby Holden said.
The Cougars lost to rival Mt. Vernon 3-0 on Sept. 7 at home, which dropped them to 1-1 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference. Determined to bounce back, the Cougars (6-3-1) reflected, evaluated and resharpened their focus for conference foe New Palestine (5-6, 1-4 HHC).
“We got our minds straight and prepared both mentally and physically,” Cougars senior Sean Julian said. “That loss hit us pretty hard. It hit the whole team. We put in a lot of work because of that. We wanted to win, but we just didn’t come out. It hit us hard right in the face.”
Against the Dragons, they turned to their defense to set the tempo and get their possessions rolling, especially in the first half.
The Cougars fired eight shots, including four shots on goal and just missed on four scoring opportunities in the initial eight minutes of the match.
New Palestine struggled to cross midfield, but goalkeeper Adam Hunt, who had eight saves, kept the net clean while his young back line supported the junior’s swift awareness.
Hunt’s signature moment came with 6:21 left in the first half as he swatted away a hard shot by Braiden Sticka. He never lost sight of the ball on an immediate putback by Sticka as the keeper mirrored his attacker throughout with a sliding defensive stand.
“He always comes up big for us. It’s just a shame we couldn’t put a few in the back of the net for him tonight,” New Palestine head coach Justin Sass said. “He’s always giving everything he has, and he came up with probably two of the most incredible saves back-to-back I’ve seen this year. That was late in the first half to keep it 0-0. That kid is just phenomenal.”
Abe Buescher, who started in goal for Greenfield-Central, had five saves. He fended off a late charge by New Palestine in the first half with four saves in the first 40 minutes, while the score stood 0-0.
“We had a couple of opportunities, but we just couldn’t put them in the back of the net,” Julian said. “We talked about that at half time, mixed it up a little bit, and we finally capitalized.”
Cole Pierce converted on a penalty kick with 23:38 remaining to break the deadlock 1-0 after New Palestine was called for a handball in the box during a Cougars breakaway.
“I wanted to bury it,” Pierce said. “Every time it’s there, you have to put it away. Hundred percent of the time. It’s an open shot.”
Zack Bell almost scored with a hard shot at Hunt with 32:18 left in the match prior to Pierce’s goal, but Greenfield- Central didn’t back down and continued to press.
“The plan was all out pressure. As soon as we lost the ball, we wanted it back within five seconds,” Pierce said. “We wanted immediate pressure on the ball.”
The scheme led to an unassisted goal by Caleb Mundell with 17:26 remaining.
“We were still pushing. We knew that nobody is laying down in a 1-0 game when it’s been that tight,” Holden said. “We kept pushing, made some changes at halftime, and I think they worked out.”
The Cougars are now still in the chase for one of the top spots in the HHC standings behind unbeaten Mt. Vernon (6-0 HHC), who is seeking a third straight conference title.
“We already dropped one. Dropping another costs you so much. You have to be at the top of the conference when you have the teams we have,” Holden said. “We had to win tonight to stay at the top.”
Greenfield-Central 2, New Palestine 0
NP (5-6, 1-4 HHC);0;0;—;0
GC (6-3-1, 2-1 HHC);0;2;—;2
Goals: Cole Pierce, Caleb Mundell (GC). Saves: Adam Hunt 8 (NP); Abe Buescher 5 (GC).