By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
ROGERSVILLE — Last year, the Logan-Rogersville Wildcats (2-1) soccer team defeated Springfield Catholic’s (3-1) 3-2 for the Wildcats’ first win over Catholic in program history.
The Irish had all offseason to stew over that loss.
So, to say the Irish had plans of redemption would be selling the rivalry short.
The Irish trailed the Wildcats on the road on two separate junctures, but the resolve to keep fighting illuminated the pitch as the Irish forced overtime and emerged as the victors in the 5-4 final Tuesday evening.
Down 4-2 with seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Irish found the net twice in 1:43 (junior Dane Rowe, sophomore Ashton Vinton) to swing momentum, which was capped off by Rowe’s penalty kick in overtime.
“We missed a couple chances early on. Just pressing that ball, just trying to get it in the net was our main priority,” Rowe said. “Me taking the ball down that left side every chance I could get, brute force really wasn’t working for me, so I drew myself away from the defender, and got the ball back. I was able to draw the foul.”
A handball was called on the Wildcats, and Rowe dug in his cleats for the penalty kick.
“As soon as I got up there to take the PK, it was just like how we do it in practice,” Rowe said. “It was just fluid.”
Rowe has one speed: full-go, and that energy is a direct byproduct of the junior’s work ethic — which has been on display since his freshman year.
“I have been practicing (penalty kicks) for a long time, since freshman year, because I had to work to get my varsity spot. It’s just muscle memory,” Rowe said of his mentality during the game winner.
Possession and formulating an aggressive offensive attack emulated a teeter-totter — with both teams spending time at the top in the physical back-and-forth action.
Rogersville struck first (Sage Ballard goal), but the Irish responded seven minutes later — a common theme on this night — as Vinton found the net for the equalizer.
Vinton finished with the hat trick, and Rowe added two goals.
Vinton would later score on a header minutes before Logan-Rogersville’s Austin Revels tied up the game, 2-2.
But just before halftime, Revels found the net and it appeared the Irish missed their chance yet again.
Patience, as much as taking touches and a collective field vision, was crucial in the win.
Something in which the Irish look to capitalize upon moving forward.
“It is obviously some momentum for us. Going into this game, there was some tension just because of last year (streak snapped). We knew that they were 4-0, and we wanted to come in with some intensity,” Rowe said.
The win comes on the road, but the manner in which they won is even more impressive for Rowe and company.
Added Rowe: “It feels great. It really does.”
Mike Hines enters his fifth season as head coach of the Irish, after netting 99 wins during his tenure at Republic.
For the veteran coach, the fight in his Irish hit a new apex Tuesday evening: an intangible that has been missing in 2019.
A handful of players went down, with injuries ranging from cramps due to the low-90s temperature and humidity, and some went down on mid-air collisions: displaying just how much each player wanted the win.
The resolve displayed comments on the character and internal fortitude of Hines’ Irish.
“What I really liked and was impressed with was the energy that Logan-Rogersville came with today. They were operating at a higher level than we were, so we had to step up. Then our guys had to dig their way out of the ditch; it took a while for us to kind of get our act together,” Hines said. “So for being our fourth game, we really haven’t gelled like I had hoped that we would. It was about the 60th minute when we kind of turned it on and started playing with a little tenacity, and we have really lacked that so far this season, and it really turned it around for us.”
Hines said while he prefers not to play from an early deficit — or two — the ability to overcome the adversity deeply resonated: especially overcoming the 4-2 deficit with 7:02 remaining in regulation.
“I was really glad to see it,” Hines said, referring to the tenacious mindset. “I don’t necessarily want to be in this situation again, but it is nice to see guys play with a little backbone. I have seen it in practice, but we haven’t put it on the field yet. This is what I hope will be a reference point for the rest of the season.”