CHARITON — A newcomer to the forward corps on the Creston boys soccer team provided an offensive spark in a 2-0 victory over Chariton Thursday night.
Senior Francisco Martinez, academically ineligible for much of the season, poked in the first of his two goals off a Conner Pals assist with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Two minutes later, off a corner kick by Levi Eblen, Martinez tapped in another goal. A strong Panther defensive effort allowed the 2-0 margin to hold up for the duration of the night.
“Frankie is pretty solid. It’s his second game with us, and he’s getting into a rhythm,” coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “On the first goal, (Conner) Pals was dribbling down the middle and poked it to Frankie. He turned his guy and shot across the goal to the far post, where the keeper couldn’t get it.
“Two minutes later Levi Eblen had a corner kick,” Rodriguez continued. “The keeper kind of got lost in the middle, and Frankie tapped it in across the box.”
Pals remains at forward in the new alignment, and sophomore McClain Haines has a new position.
“We have Haines at withdrawn forward,” Rodriguez explained. “He has a little more defensive duties. He’s the guy we look to before the forward. He can float around and play a through ball to Pals or Frankie. We think he has a good skill set for that position, for the team.”
The new look put the pressure on Chariton, which falls to 0-8. Creston had 32 shots to dominate play, as goalkeeper Alex Nielsen only had to provide two saves in the shutout.
“We stayed aware, and hustled back to position if we got beat one-on-one,” Rodriguez said. “As a unit we did really well.”
Creston, now 6-4, has another nonconference match Saturday morning at approximately 10:30 a.m. at home against Oakland Riverside, after the girls match at 9 a.m.
The Panthers travel to Harlan Monday before the last two regular season matches are at home against Clarinda and Atlantic.
“There’s still a chance we could tie for first in the conference, so we may have to make up the match with Denison,” Rodriguez said.
The substate opener is at Winterset May 20 against the Huskies.
“We lost in overtime to them in their tournament,” the Panther coach said. “We had so many breakaways and we just couldn’t put one in.”
The Panther JV won 2-1. Creston goals were a rebound shot by Caleb Cramer from out front, and a free kick by Brandon Lee. Jake Miller had eight saves at goalkeeper.
Creston 2, Chariton 0
Creston (2) — Francisco Martinez (Conner Pals assist), 12:00 first half; Martinez (Levi Eblen assist), 12:00 first half. Shots — 32. Individual shots — McClain Haines 9, Conner Pals 8, Francisco Martinez 8, Trevor Frain 4, Tayler Pettit 1, Kaleb Cook 1, Josh Sawtelle 1, Levi Eblen 1. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 2. Cards — None.