BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison’s 2-1 boys soccer win over Fairfield at the Baxter Sports Complex on Thursday night was a test of the Bloodhounds’ toughness.
Fort Madison (4-1 overall, 3-0 Southeast Conference) played one man short over the final 26 1/2 minutes after a red card on sophomore Xander Wellman, but the Bloodhounds were able to hold on.
“It was toughness,” Fort Madison coach Kevin Wellman said. “Mental toughness, and some physical toughness too. But mostly mental toughness. We obviously didn’t have many opportunities with one guy out, because we went without a forward up top. But we were going after those balls, we were challenging when they had the ball, applying pressure properly. I’m very proud with what the guys did, all of them, even the guys on the bench.”
Fort Madison got two goals off penalty kicks by Mitchell Pothitakis, the second one with 35:45 left in the match. Less than 10 minutes later, Xander Wellman was sent off, and the Bloodhounds had to tighten up.
The Bloodhounds’ defense was solid, keeping the No. 8 Trojans (3-1, 2-1) away from the Fort Madison goal.
And as the time ticked away, Fort Madison’s bench players got louder and louder.
“You could feel the energy,” Kevin Wellman said. “That’s what you want from your bench.”
When the clock hit all zeroes, the Bloodhounds celebrated as they sat at the top of the conference standings.
“That part in itself is huge,” Wellman said. “But they’re a tough school in our conference, year after year. This is a great win for us, puts us in the driver’s seat in the conference, which is where we want to be. That’s one of our goals.”
Fort Madison took a lead in the opening minutes. Xander Wellman was brought down on a foul near the net, leading to Pothitakis’ first goal with just 1:33 gone in the match.
“We had a nice through ball over the defense, and Xander ran it down,” Kevin Wellman said. “He got a half-step on the defender, and the defender was trying to do everything he could. It was nothing malicious, he was just trying to do everything he could to stop him.”
Fairfield tied it with 27:44 left in the half on Xavier Kapijimpanga’s goal.
The Trojans had nine shots on goal in the first half, but only three in the second half.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Bloodhounds, who have outscored their opponents 27-4 in the winning streak.
Fort Madison plays at Mount Pleasant on Monday.