BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison boys soccer team likes playing at home where they can spread out, get comfortable and win some games.
The Hounds got revenge on the Mt. Pleasant Panthers Monday night at the Baxter Sports Complex, where the visitors scored a 1-0 win over Fort Madison to open the season on March 30.
The Bloodhounds are coming off a 6-2 loss at Central Lee Friday night. The loss prompted Head Coach Kevin Wellman to put 6’4″ senior Justin Bowker in as keeper Monday and the senior responded with 10 saves in the 2-1 win.
All the scoring was done in the first half with the Panthers finding the net early. Senior Nathan Rauenbuehler outraced the Hounds back defense and got a good angle to pop a high shot at Bowker, who had the ball go off his fingertips and into the top of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Hounds Reuben Eid returned the favor at the 15-minute mark when he got loose in the 18-foot box off the Panthers’ goal and fired a low shot off an assist from senior AJ Nolting, across the front of the goal low into the net to tie up the score.
Both teams would be kept out of the net until junior Austin Sexton scored unassisted where the Mt. Pleasant defense couldn’t clear the ball in the box and Sexton was able to find an opening and pop it through.
Neither team would find the net in the second half, despite a flurry in the final two minutes by Mt. Pleasant to keep the ball on their third of the pitch, but only managing a couple soft shots at the goal, with the Bloodhounds mucking up any chance of a late rally.
The Panthers came into the game 5-1 with their only loss to state powerhouse Davenport North 0-2 in the season-opening Fort Madison Invitational
“This was very good win for us,” Wellman said
Wellman said the Hounds play better on wider courses where they can spread opposing defenses out in the field and control the ball better.
On Friday, the Hounds played on the football field at Central Lee which is a much tighter field.
“Any ball on those fields is really a central ball and it makes the bodies tighter,” he said. “Most of our offense was to play to Austin and they keyed on him and at times he’d have eight people collapsing on him. So we were really crammed in there and weren’t allowed to play in the lateral spaces as well as we wanted to.”
He said at home, they have more confidence in ball movement which moves defenses sideways and ultimately gets them out of position.
Wellman said Bowker’s knowledge of the game is an advantage with him in the net, as opposed to his normal back defense position.
‘We decided to let him play a sweeper keeper where the keeper can come out and play as a back field player if he needs to, or drop back into the net. That way he could use his knowledge of the game to clear the ball and not let Rauenbuehler run on it,” Wellman said.
“He knows what plays to make and we keyed on that in the second half with the wind in our face.”
The Hounds are 4-5 now on the year with a chance to go to .500 on the season when they host 2-3 Washington on Thursday at the Baxter Sports Complex.