GLENWOOD — Glenwood took the inside track on a Hawkeye 10 boys soccer championship Thursday with a 3-0 home victory over Creston in a matchup of state-rated teams.
The Class 2A eighth-ranked Rams scored once in the first half, extended it to 2-0 with 25:32 left in the match and added a late score in a one-on-one situation with Panther goalkeeper Alex Nielsen.
Glenwood improved to 5-0 in the Hawkeye 10 and 7-2 overall, with losses only to Class 3A second-ranked Johnston and nearby rival Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson. Creston fell to 3-2 in the conference, with matches left at home against Carroll Kuemper and Harlan, and 9-2 overall.
It was the third road trip of the week for the Panthers, while Glenwood had not played since a 7-0 victory Monday over Lewis Central at home. There were times the Panthers were a step late to the ball, but that was due in part to the Rams’ precision in ball movement.
“It was a game where we easily could have been in overtime,” Creston coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “Some mistakes cost us today. The first goal was kind of a lucky goal. The kid was almost on the sideline, when he kicked it, it was like a cross and a shot. It went around the keeper and in. Sometimes that just goes out of bounds. The second one, Alex kind of slipped with his momentum and kept going, and the ball stopped. Their forward did what he was supposed to do and followed up. That could easily have been another save by Alex, and we’re 0-0 going into overtime. They don’t score that last one if we’re still in it. By then the guys kind of let down.”
Glenwood had 17 shots on goal to just three for Creston, but the Panther defense kept it competitive all the way until that third score with only minutes left.
“We came out strong in the second half, but that second goal really got everyone disappointed,” Rodriguez said. “We lost the chance to be conference champs. But I told the guys, we’re still going after our goals of winning more games and getting ready for substate.”
With 29:46 left in the first half, Ram senior Jacob Anderson played a ball on the far left sideline and sent it crossing to Payton Kalambokidis, who has 10 goals on the season. But, the ball didn’t reach the Ram leading scorer, instead spinning and curving with the aid of a slight tailwind into the Panther net.
Creston missed a chance to tie on a runout shot by McClain Haines with 5:53 left. As time wound down in the half, defender Tayler Pettit made a nice kick save after Nielsen had left the box to chase down the ball. Then, with :03 left Nielsen made a leaping grab of a shot.
Creston had better success advancing the ball in the second half. But, at the 25:32 mark Brandon Bichel scored his seventh goal of the season in a scramble in front of the net. A previous shot bounced free from Nielsen’s grasp.
“We really felt like it should have been 3-0 at halftime,” Glenwood coach Shane Keeling said. “Then that second one was kind of a ricochet off the keeper, and Brandon was right there to clean it up like he should.”
That prompted Rodriguez to switch to a 4-3-3 to generate more offense, playing from behind, leaving the defense more vulnerable. The Panthers nearly scored on a shot by Haines at 15:00 and a good opportunity off a free kick by Ben Irr at the 13:30 mark, but the Ram defense held fast before Kalambokidis scored at point blank range at 1:58.
“Our defense has played very well,” Keeling said. “We’ve allowed one goal in conference play.”
The only team to score on Glenwood in the conference is Harlan in a 2-1 loss to the Rams. Harlan, 5-2 overall, has received votes in the latest ratings but stands 1-2 in league play. The Cyclones play at Atlantic tonight.
The most impressive development from Thursday’s match may have been how the potent Creston offense was shut down to three shots on goal, including none by junior Conner Pals, who is chasing the single-season scoring record with 17 goals to date.
“We knew they had three guys to watch,” Keeling said. “We knew number three (Haines) and number five (Irr) each had seven goals and that Pals had 17. We never really asssigned a guy to Pals, although with some teams we have done that in the past. I just felt we had the guys to match up well with them.”
“They were ready,” Rodriguez said. “Every times Pals was on a guy, they always had another guy or two right behind them. They know how to use their bodies to their advantage and get in front of our players. We were not being so aggressive to the 50-50 balls. They were aggressive going for it. We need to go in and win that ball and give ourselves opportunities.”
Rodriguez said Glenwood’s agility with the ball and precision passing was different than the Panthers had faced so far this season.
“We still have to work on our passing,” Rodriguez said. “We were doing a great job with that against other teams, but not teams like this who can pass well and defend well like us. We don’t play until our tournament (May 10) so we have a week of practice to adjust some things. We’re not done yet.”
Glenwood also handed the Creston JV its first loss, 1-0. Goalie Jake Miller had five saves.
Glenwood 3, Creston 0
Creston (0) — Shots (on goal) — 6 (3 on goal). Individual shots (on goal)— McClain Haines 3 (2 on goal), Tayler Pettit 1 (1 on goal), Ben Irr 1, Gavin Woods 1. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 13. Cards — None.
Glenwood (3) — Jacob Anderson 29:46 first half; Brandon Bichel 25:32 second half; Payton Kalambokidis 1:58 second half. Shots (on goal) — 17 on goal. Saves — Connor Weis 3. Cards — None.