CARROLL — Two Conner Pals goals in the second half lifted the Creston boys soccer team to a come-from-behind victory over Kuemper Catholic here on Tuesday, and also kept the Panthers’ hopes of a share of the Hawkeye 10 Conference title alive.
Kuemper opened the scoring with 38:00 left in the second half after a scoreless first half.
The ball found its way into the box, and the Panthers failed to clear the ball out of the box, allowing Kuemper to shoot the ball past Creston keeper Alex Nielsen for the first score of the game.
But it didn’t take long for the Panthers to answer, as less than a minute later, Josh Sawtelle fed Pals inside the box. Pals, who started on the left side of the goal, cut inside and shot to the near post on the ground.
Kuemper’s keeper dove for the ball, but came up empty as Pals tied the score at 1-1.
“Good game. The guys, we’ve been trying a new formation and hadn’t been able to to try it because we cancelled so many games,” head coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “But we tried it today, and I felt it worked pretty good.”
Creston moved to a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, and had several scoring opportunities in the first half against the wind, but came up empty.
The score remained knotted at 1-1 until 9:25 left in the game when Pals found the back of the net again from nearly 20 yards out to break the tie.
“Levi Eblen passed him the ball right outside the box,” Rodriguez said. “Again, he cut in, but this time ... he hit a bomb. It was a line drive. The keeper had no chance on that.”
After going up 2-1, Rodriguez and assistant coach Lucian Diaconu conferred and decided to shift back to the 4-5-1 formation the Panthers had previously been playing, in order to be more sound on defense and set up the potential for counter attacks.
“Right away I knew they were going to come right at us, and I had to switch the formation back to a 4-5-1,” Rodriguez said. “I like it because our guys are so used to it. Right away, they knew what to do. We didn’t have to make any substitutions. It’s nice to know everyone’s on the same page.”
Pals, who had a busy night with 10 total shots in the game, had a couple more scoring chances after the switch in formation, as counter attacks led to through balls for Pals, but he was unable to convert those chances into another goal.
Rodriguez said he was pleased to see his team execute with better passing in this match than he has seen in past games.
He also pointed out that Nielsen played a great game in net that helped keep the Panthers in the game early.
The win improves Creston to 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference. Should the Panthers win out their remaining conference games, they could still tie for the conference championship.
The Panthers travel to Chariton on Thursday.
The Creston JV team lost 3-1 on Tuesday. Skylar Cook scored the lone goal for the Panthers, who had eight shots as a team. Jake Miller finished with five saves.
Creston 2, Kuemper Catholic 1
Creston (2) — Conner Pals goal (Josh Sawtelle assist), 37:00 second half; Conner Pals goal (Levi Eblen assist), 9:25 second half. Shots — 17. Shots on goal — 13. Individual shots — Levi Eblen 1, McClain Haines 2, Conner Pals 10, Francisco Martinez 4. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 7. Cards — Gage Cheers (Y).
Kuemper Catholic (1) — Goal at 38:00 of second half. Shots on goal — 8. Saves — 11.