JEFFERSONVILLE — With only 17:30 left in a scoreless match on Saturday that would decide the Hoosier Hills Conference soccer championship, Mitch Tabler literally rose to the challenge.
Tabler jumped a little higher than Jeffersonville keeper Louis Arredondo, deflecting teammate Colin Singer’s free kick into the net for the game’s only goal.
The 1-0 victory gave the Olympians an undefeated conference season and the title.
“Colin’s going to get it in there every single time, so I just jumped up and tried to get a head on it,” Tabler said. “I brushed it up a little bit, right over him (Arredondo).”
Both teams went into the game unbeaten in conference play.
As the game began, the Red Devils came out with lots of energy to dominate possession early. It took almost 10 minutes and three Jeffersonville scoring chances before East picked up its first shot on goal by Alex Staggs. The Olympians’ keeper, JB Baxter, was keeping his team in the game.
After Staggs’ shot, the Olympians started to dominate possession for the rest of the half. However, a number of good chances flew wide, over the crossbar or were turned away by Arredondo.
Singer appeared to score on a free kick, but the goal was disallowed at the 25:30 mark. “It’s frustrating, but we knew putting one in early means we would get another one,” said Singer. “We figured we’d try those all game and I knew Mitch (Tabler) would get a head on them, and I knew eventually he’d put one in.”
The Olympians withstood their two most dangerous challenges from the Red Devils’ Brian Fischer. In the first half, Fischer had the ball deep inside the East box. Baxter challenged him for the ball but missed, and suddenly Fischer was behind him lining up a shot into the open goal. But the East defense, led by Adam Wallace and Roberto Garcia, closed on Fischer quickly and managed to clear the ball before he had a chance to release his shot.
Fischer created a second opportunity at around 27:45 left in the second half. A long clearing kick from the Jeffersonville end was about to be handled by Baxter, who had left his goal to handle it. But Fischer ran aggressively and snatched the ball before Baxter could clear, then shouldered the East keeper aside and dribbled straight toward the unprotected goal mouth, nearly knocking over the East defenders who had arrived to assist their keeper. Somehow Baxter’s back line managed to poke the ball harmlessly across the end line and away from Fischer to force a Jeffersonville corner kick.
Jeffersonville’s speedy forward, Leonard Kwitonda, also had a number of dangerous scoring chances turned away by the Olympians’ relentless back line.
“We were able to keep possession of the ball and play good soccer,” said East head coach Brad Barber. “We knew scoring opportunities would continue to come. If we stayed patient, that opportunity would present itself and we knew we could finish. We had a lot of shots that were just a foot wide of the goal. We knew eventually one was going to go in.
“You also have to give a lot of credit to JB Baxter (eight saves). And I couldn’t be more happy with the defense.”