Creston soccer coach Jesus Rodriguez played a hunch.
His team was tied 1-1 with Denison-Schleswig in the second overtime period, as the sun was setting at the soccer field south of Creston Elementary/Middle School, with no lights. (The Panther Relays were being held at Panther Field.)
Forward McClain Haines had just been issued a yellow card — the 10th total of the match — and Rodriguez had to turn to his bench with less than six minutes remaining in the second overtime.
Rodriguez signalled to junior reserve Connor Kinkade, who was coming off a strong JV performance Tuesday against Underwood. He had spelled Haines for a few minutes near the end of regulation.
“I had a hunch,” Rodriguez said. “He scored a couple goals on Tuesday. I thought, why not give him a chance here?”
Forward Conner Pals took the ball through two defenders on an attack, and during the flurry the ball squirted back toward a trailing Kinkade.
“Pals got the ball through and I was just there for cleanup, and just knocked it in,” Kinkade said.
The goal, with 3:56 left in the second overtime before the two teams would have gone to a penalty-kick shootout, gave Creston a 2-1 victory and its third overtime win of the season.
After beating Class 1A ninth-ranked Underwood in overtime Tuesday, and a win over a Denison-Schleswig team garnering ratings votes in Class 2A, the Panthers stand 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Hawkeye 10. Dension falls to 2-3 and 1-1.
“We haven’t done this in awhile, beat two teams back-to-back who have been recognized in the rankings,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great.”
The Panther coach said Pals’ aggressive attack into the scoring zone set up the winning goal.
“You have to give a lot of props to Pals, fighting through two or three guys and eventually the ball popped out to Kinkade,” Rodriguez said. “Connor was patient. He got away from traffic before striking the ball, and he was rewarded with the winning goal.”
The teams had remained tied 1-1 after each scored early in regulation. Denison’s Alan Romero headed in a ricochet shot for an early Monarch lead.
The Panthers answered shortly afterward. Haines took a through ball deep into the scoring zone. The shot was blocked by Denison goalkeeper Joshua Bonilla, and freshman Gavin Woods was in position to shoot it in the net on a sharp angle from the right side.
“Gavin was sprinting and closing hard, and to stop and finish like that, it takes technique to score like that,” Rodriguez said.
Although scoring was at a premium throughout the match, intensity wasn’t lacking. Denison received six yellow cards and four were issued to Creston players.
Rodriguez said in the end, Denison was unable to match the physical play of his team, particularly on the Panther defensive end, despite the absence of junior Tayler Pettit with an aggravated knee injury.
“We were the physical team and they were the skill players in this game,” Rodriguez said. “They can trap the ball and switch the field, typical things you see from players who have been playing since they were little. We’re trying to get there. We had a lot of combinations and we were trying to attack. The physicality and our strength, and our speed, carried us today.”
At one point Denison coached Carlos Trevino shouted to the officials, “They’re playing regular football, not soccer!”
The Panthers’ style paid off in a shooting advantage, as goalkeeper Alex Nielsen had only three saves for the night. Creston had 12 shots, including four on goal.
Creston plays two matches Saturday at the Winterset tournament. The field also includes Nodaway Valley, Oskaloosa and the host Huskies. Creston returns home Monday night to take on Nodaway Valley.
“I told the guys, we can celebrate tonight, but the hardest thing to do in soccer is to win a hard game, and then another one after that,” Rodriguez said. “We have a great chance to come out of Monday 7-1, and that’s huge for us. We have not started a season like that. But we can’t do that if we don’t come back and play well Saturday.”
Creston 2, Denison-Schleswig 1 (2 OT)
Creston (2) — Gavin Woods, first half; Connor Kinkade (Conner Pals assist), second overtime. Shots — 12 (5 on goal). Individual shots — Ben Irr 4 (1 on goal), Conner Pals 2 (1 on goal), Gavin Leith 1, Chase Shiltz 1 (1 on goal), McClain Haines 1 (1 on goal), Connor Kinkade 1 (1 on goal). Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 3. Cards — Brant Hudson (Y), Leith (Y), Chase Shiltz (Y), Haines (Y).
Denison-Schleswig (1) — Alan Romero, first half. Shots on goal — 4. Saves — Joshua Bonilla 3. Cards — Bonilla (Y), Miguel Sosa (Y), Jose Avalos (Y), Alan Romero (Y), Ryan Reis (Y), Daniel Limon (Y), Luis Rios (Y).