LAGRANGE — The weather was dreadful, the field conditions were worse but for Keystone the result was a thing of beauty.
Thanks to goals by juniors Zachary Marsh and Jordan Hill, the Wildcats came away with a 2-0 Patriot Athletic Conference win Monday over Firelands. It was Keystone’s first win against the Falcons since 2009.
“This is a big win for us. Firelands has a great program and we’ve always struggled against them,” Keystone coach Kevin Graham said. “With the conditions today putting two in the back of the net was a huge accomplishment. This field was horrible for both teams, slipping and sliding all over. It was tough.”
The field conditions played a role in the first Wildcats goal when a Firelands defender was called for a handball inside the box when he slipped on the wet grass and fell on top of the ball.
For the third time thisseason, Marsh stepped up to the penalty spot and made an opposing team pay for its transgressions, driving the ball into the lower left corner of the net past goalkeeper Lorenzo Reyna.
“It was a big moment because I know if we can score it changes the entire momentum of the game,” Marsh said. “I’m always nervous whenever I take a PK, I just stayed focused and took the kick.”
The win improved Keystone to 3-3-1 and 1-1-1 in the PAC, while Firelands dropped to 0-5 and 0-2.
After losing to the Falcons each of the last five seasons, many Keystone players celebrated the win with a post-match belly flop into the mud that had accumulated alongside the Wildcats bench.
“We’ve been playing Firelands every year for a while,” Hill said. “We really wanted it this last year and couldn’t grab it. We knew they hadn’t won a game yet so we brought it to them early and we got the win.”
Hill scored Keystone’s second goal in the 49th minute on a play where he got the ball in front of the Falcons goal, slipped before he could get a solid first touch but was able to get just enough of the ball to send the ball across the face of the goal and off the near goalpost, where it redirected into the back of the net.
The thick mud and high humidity made the playing conditions so difficult that Hill got cramps in both of his legs after scoring the goal and had to be carried to the bench by the Wildcats coaching staff before play could resume.
“It was very wet, very difficult,” Hill said. “It was ugly soccer tonight.”
Ethan Linebrink was strong in goal for Keystone with seven saves.
“Ethan had a couple of big saves and our center backs (Tyler Drake and Carter McCartney) are really tough with their speed and their foot skills — it’s tough to get by them,” Graham said. “Our back four is really the strength of our team.”
The Falcons have had trouble scoring all season and Monday they also had to contend with a Keystone defense that forced them offsides on 10 occasions.
“Keystone did a wonderful job tonight. They have great coaches, they have been coaching their guys well for the last few years and it’s really beginning to show,” Firelands coach Jim Fossie said. “Our guys tried their best on a sloppy field but we just couldn’t make enough plays to win a soccer game. We’ve got good guys on this team, they’ll show up in the weight room (today) and we’ll learn from this game.”
Keystone 2, Firelands 0
GOALS: Zachary Marsh (23rd minute, PK), Jordan Hill (49th minute)
ASSISTS: Tristan Miller
SAVES: (F) Lorenzo Reyna 6; (K) Ethan Linebrink 7.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Firelands 7, Keystone 8.
OFFSIDES: Firelands 10, Keystone 1.
FOULS: Firelands 9, Keystone 4.
CORNER KICKS: Firelands 4, Keystone 4.