After playing 91 scoreless minutes of soccer against Riverside here on Saturday, Creston senior Francisco Martinez suddenly found himself on a breakaway toward net in the second half of overtime.
Panther junior Trevor Frain had played a ball into open space as Martinez and a Riverside defender gave chase to the ball.
The Riverside defender got a touch on the ball, but did not clear it out. Martinez then made shoulder-to-shoulder contact with the defender, knocking him off the ball.
That freed up Martinez, who dribbled in along the right side, drew the Riverside keeper out of the net and played a ball to the open net, far post.
That’s where a waiting Conner Pals tapped the ball into the back of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 overtime win over Riverside.
“I told the guys, we’re going for the win,” Creston head coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “I told them we’re going to go 4-3-4, and the first play of the game we went up, it worked. In my opinion, the coaches were thinking it was a foul (on Martinez), but it was a shoulder-to-shoulder tackle. He never extended his arm. It was clean, and we were able to come out with a win.”
Playing with a blustery wind at their back in the second half of overtime allowed Rodriguez to play a more aggressive offensive style in an attempt to go for the win.
The Panthers, who played with the wind at their backs in the first half of the match, had plenty of scoring opportunities in the half, but couldn’t capitalize.
“I was a little bit frustrated at the beginning of the game, because that first half, we had like 20 shots with the wind, and we couldn’t put one in,” Rodriguez said. “We hit two crossbars, we had a couple of breakaways. We went against the wind and they hit a couple of posts on us.”
With 15:40 remaining in the second half, McClain Haines had two opportunities to break the scoreless tie as he shot toward net, only to have the Riverside keeper make a save.
But, the ball bounced back out toward Haines, who got a good look on a rebound shot, which bounced off the right post and out of bounds.
Creston keeper Alex Nielsen finished with eight saves in the match, with most of those saves coming when Riverside had the wind at its back.
“I’m proud of the guys, how much they have improved and that they listen to their coach,” Rodriguez said. “It goes to show how much the guys have improved from last year.”
The Panthers have now won three games in a row in improving to 7-4 for the season, with a tough slate of conference games coming up this week.
Creston travels to Harlan today, and then travels to Denison-Schleswig on Tuesday.
The Panthers were originally scheduled to play Clarinda Academy on Tuesday, but the only chance Creston had to earn share of the Hawkeye 10 Conference title was to beat Denison-Schleswig, so the two teams scheduled a makeup contest between the two teams.
“This was getting us ready for the the next three conference games coming up,” Rodriguez said. “All the conference games are usually pretty intense, and it’s up for grabs. If we want it, we have to come to play Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“If we win that game Tuesday (at Denison), then we have a shot,” Rodriguez continued. “They’re a good team, so that game is going to be the toughest of the three. We’ll see where we’re at there.”
Creston 1, Riverside 0
Creston (1) — Conner Pals goal (Francisco Martinez assist), 8:26 second half of overtime. Shots — 22. Individual shots — Conner Pals 6, Josh Sawtelle 4, McClain Haines 4, Levi Eblen 3, Trevor Frain 3, Francisco Martinez 2. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 8.