By JASON BROWN
Mahomet Citizen sportswriter
A nearly one-hour rain delay almost canceled the championship game of the Mahomet-Seymour Kick-Off Invitational Saturday, but inclement weather did finally clear, allowing the boys’ soccer team to defend its title.
And that’s just what the Bulldogs did, defeating Hoopeston 5-1 in the first game and Washington 2-1 in the second game to win the Kick-Off Invitational title for the second straight year.
Against Washington in the championship game, Washington came out strong in the first twenty minutes with a score by Panther Ian Gregg to put the Bulldogs behind 1-0 and a couple more near misses.
"Going down early is nothing new to these players," said coach Andrew Kennedy. "It’s not something we want to do but it is something we’ve proven we can handle."
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs tied the score when Cam Burgess scored on a free kick.
"We needed to reestablish our brand of soccer after that initial onslaught," Kennedy said. "We did this by calming down the pace of the game and utilizing our ability to maintain possession. The guys did not panic at any point and worked hard to climb back into the game."
To take the lead and the eventual win, Bulldog senior Aaron Penick scored on an assist from senior Nicholas Schnepper.
Kennedy played nearly the entire squad, 20 deep, in both games, knowing the players were going to make it through two games, and it paid off.
"The game-winning goal was preceded by a six man substitution not four minutes earlier," said Kennedy. "Our rotation eventually wore down our opponents and allowed us to strike as the game got closer to its conclusion."
In game one against Hoopeston, the Bulldogs scored two goals in the first half and three in the second for a 5-1 victory. For the Cornjerkers, Skylar Bernard scored late in the second half for Hoopeston’s only goal.
Bulldog senior Nathan DeHaan scored the first goal in the opening half of the game on an assist from senior Ethan Walmer.
Senior Max Osman scored the second goal on an assist from DeHaan.
In the second half, junior Evan Lundstrom scored the third goal on an assist from senior Cameron Burgess, and sophomore Trevor Burgess added an unassisted goal.
Senior Trenton Wheeler struck the final goal on an assist from senior Sean Jackson.
"This was a good opening game for us," said Kennedy. "We scored early, within the first five minutes. Nathan is our top returning goal scorer, so it was good to have him find twine early on. Traditionally we seem to take our time getting into a match. Here we broke character in a good way in this respect."
The team proved its scoring diversity. Five players each scored a goal and four players recorded an assist.
"We are a team in the truest sense of the word," said Kennedy, "relying on a collective and no one individual."
The Bulldogs travel to Urbana University High Thursday, then will enter the Urbana Tourney Friday and Saturday. The team will travel to Judah Christian School on Monday.
For more on Bulldog soccer, see this week's Mahomet Citizen