Although Monday night didn’t include the fairy-tale ending of a dragon slaying for the Newton boys soccer team, it was still a much happier ending than last season.
Class 3A powerhouse Johnston scored two goals in the second and added a security mark in the second to win a heated 3-0 game at H.A. Lynn Field. But considering the Dragons took last season’s head-to-head matchup by a final of 8-0, Monday’s results didn’t seem too bad.
“It would have been nice to keep it at 2-0, but 3-0 isn’t bad,” Cardinals coach Tim Heger said. “They smoked us last year, so this is better, and I think we played a lot harder than last year. It’s something to build off of, and they’re an elite program in 3A, so the fact that we hung with them for a while is pretty good.”
Once the Dragons gained possession of the ball at the beginning of the game, they didn’t give it up much. The Cardinals (3-1, 2-0 Little Hawkeye Conference) hung around thanks to a solid defensive effort, however, as many of Johnston’s early scoring chances were dashed by offsides penalties. Newton had one of its best scoring opportunities of the game on a free kick by senior Jesse Bates around the 34-minute mark, but the shot sailed just a bit too high.
Johnston first cracked the Newton defense at the 27:24 mark when junior Calvin Kamrey took a pass up the middle and blasted a shot to give the Dragons a 1-0 lead. About five minutes later, junior Sam Graving navigated his way past Cardinal defenders to give Johnston a 2-0 lead.
Although the goals represented Newton’s only real shortcomings on defense for the night, the 2-0 lead felt much larger due to Johnston’s stiff defense on the other side of the field.
“The give-and-go and the one-on-one with the keeper was just bad timing. There was nothing James (Leonard) could do about that,” Heger said. “Their third goal was almost the exact same thing.”
The beginning of the second half looked much like the first, and Newton senior Peder Hopkins had to make a diving save to prevent a Cardinal own goal just six minutes in. The Cards had their strongest offensive push of the game after that, however, as some nice passes from Bates and senior Tyler Hansen led to a breakaway. The restyling shot sailed just left of the net, however, and Johnston went back to controlling the ball on the ensuing possession.
“If it’s 2-1, who knows where it goes from there,” Heger said. “They’re a good team and 2-1 would’ve helped, but I don’t really know how much that could’ve affected the game after that.”
Frustration began to build for the Newton players and fans as the Cardinals picked up three yellow cards in the game’s final minutes, much to the chagrin of the bleachers. The The Dragons eventually put the nail in the coffin with 9:58 to play when sophomore Darius Doswell poked in a rebound.
Despite the fact the Cardinals took their first loss of the season in the game, the five-goal difference from last season to now is a positive that can be used going forward. Besides the five-minute stretch in the first half that yielded the Dragons’ first two goals, the Cardinal defense lived up to the high expectations Heger has for it this season.
“I was happy with the defense and their play,” Heger said. “They got pounded for 75 minutes of the game, but they just held strong. Johnston had so many shots and possessed it so well our defense could have just taken in, but they didn’t let much through.”
More tough nonconference action awaits Newton on Thursday when the Cards travel to Marshalltown (6-0). Newton will then return to H.A. Lynn for a Little Hawkeye contest against Knoxville on Friday.