PENDLETON — As the Pendleton Heights Arabians erupted in celebration with their fans on Thursday night, the Mt. Vernon Marauders looked on with their emotions in full view.
The scene wasn’t what they envisioned, but despite a furious attempt at a comeback in the second half, the Marauders lost their first Hoosier Heritage Conference game of the season 2-1, and their prized possession.
Mt. Vernon, which had won 16 consecutive HHC regular-season matches to retain the HHC traveling bell trophy, reluctantly handed it over as the moment singed into their minds.
“I’ll never get the bell again. We’re kind of (upset) right now,” Mt. Vernon senior Timmy Clone remarked as the Arabians rang the bell in jubilation. “It’s really giving us a rude awakening of what we need to do to jump up our intensity and play better.”
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At 6-0 in the HHC entering the night, the front-running Marauders (8-6) were searching for their second straight outright title with a win. Instead, the Arabians (7-6-1) scored two first-half goals and hung on as Mt. Vernon dropped their fifth match in a row.
“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t finish them,” Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Mayhew said. “We made two costly mistakes in the first half, gave up two goals; it’s unfortunate. Pendleton came out on fire. We just didn’t match their intensity. It’s how it goes.”
The Arabians first goal went to Abe Bohlsen in the match’s seventh minute on a fluky mishap in the box. As Bohlsen attacked, his shot deflected off a Marauders’ defender and bounced over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Jenner York.
The next goal was equally as bizarre. On an attempt to clear out the ball, York missed played the kick, and it remained in the box. The Arabians immediately swarmed and Drew Deley hammered it home for a 2-0 lead.
Pendleton Heights’ controlled the tempo and the midfield through the first 20 minutes, recording five shots before the Marauders posted their first.
“First half, we came out strong. We knew Mt. Vernon lost five of their last six games, so it was big to come out and put that pressure on them early,” Arabians head coach Kyle Davy said. “We did, got those two early goals, and we controlled the first half.”
In the second half, the Marauders responded despite six yellow cards issued throughout the match and a combined four in the second half. The Arabians had four of the six.
“It was picking up the intensity and having more fight,” Clone said. “That was the problem.”
Jacob Knepper cut the deficit 2-1 during Mt. Vernon’s second-half charge. Knepper sliced a goal past keeper Andrew Clemons off a free kick played into the zone with 29 minutes remaining.
The Marauders had nine shots in the second half and held the Arabians without a single attempt. Mt. Vernon fired five shots on goal, drawing the top crossbar on a free kick by Brandon Johnson after Pendleton Heights’ third yellow card.
A near goal by Mt. Vernon’s Michael McKeeman hit the post and trickled out with 23:18 left on the clock. A point-blank header attempt by Tylin Broaders with 18:26 left was stonewalled by Clemons, who had five saves in the game.
“We showed some fight in the second half, and we had a few shots late that just didn’t go for us,” Mayhew said. “We end up with a share of the conference, if Greenfield-Central (2508-4-1, 4-1 HHC) wins out as well, which is still a good accomplishment with what we graduated, but we’ve moved past that.
“We have 14 games under our belt, there’s no excuse for some of the mistakes that we made, but they’re kids. And if you play long enough, stuff like that is going to happen.”
It was still difficult to take, and the Marauders won’t soon forget, even though they are guaranteed a share of the HHC title.
“The bell, my brother lost it my freshman year, but we got it back my sophomore year. We kept it until now. On the last game, too. That’s rough,” Clone said. “We are still champions, that is the light at the end of the tunnel, but that’s not how you want it. You don’t want to share it and you don’t PKs. Those are the two things you don’t want in soccer.”
Pendleton Heights 2, Mt. Vernon 1
MV (8-6, 6-1 HHC);0;1;—;1
PH (7-6-1, 3-2 HHC);2;0;—;2
Goals: Jacob Knepper (MV); Abe Bohlsen, Drew Deley (PH)
Saves: Jenner York 2 (MV); Andrew Clemons 5 (PH)