Cape Central boys soccer upends Poplar Bluff 4-1

Friday, September 8, 2017
Cape Central's Danny Cruz looks to pass in front of Poplar Bluff's Juan Ventura during the first half Thursday night in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Brian Rosener ~ Daily American Republic

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- T.K. Ayers and Danny Cruz scored 78 seconds apart to give the Cape Girardeau Central boys soccer team an early two-goal lead Thursday, and the Tigers pulled away for a 4-1 road victory against SEMO Conference foe Poplar Bluff.

Ayers finished with two goals in the game and was a steady scoring threat for Central.

"Give credit to them, they played really well tonight," Poplar Bluff coach Rusty Crafton said. "Moved the ball, distributed the ball. They did everything right."

Central coach Jared Dobbs said the game plan was to, "not let the environment affect our play."

In their last trip to Mules Stadium, the Tigers lost 7-1.

Cape Central players, from left, Nate Albertson, Danny Cruz, T.K. Ayers, Ethan Hutson and Kaya Newkirk celebrate a goal by Cruz in the first half Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Poplar Bluff, Mo. (DAILY AMERICAN REPUBLIC/Brian Rosener)

"I knew coming in that Cape was going to be a better team," Crafton said. "I've tried to warn these guys."

It didn't take long for that message to sink in on the scoreboard.

Ayers put the Tigers ahead in the sixth minute when the sophomore ripped a shot just inside the 18-yard box. Cruz earned the assist and then got a goal of his own just over a minute later with a shot from 22 yards in front of the net.

"The first five minutes of the game, you can't get down 2-0," Crafton said. "That just brings us down."

The Mules (3-4, 0-1 SEMO) have not won a game when giving up two or more goals falling to 0-4 in that scenario.

Central (7-4, 2-0) scored three or more goals for the fourth straight game and the fifth time this season. The Tigers came in averaging 2.6 goals per contest.

Quick touches kept the Mules on their heels and led to the early goals.

Dobbs said there's a two-touch limit during training drills to get the ball moving quicker and also to get players without the ball moving quicker to support the pass.

Cape Central's Kaya Newkirk, left, and Poplar Bluff's Walter Hickey (18) battle for a jump ball during the first half Thursday night, Sept. 7, 2017, in Poplar Bluff, Mo. (DAILY AMERICAN REPUBLIC/Brian Rosener)

"It's nice to see what we train on implemented in a game," Dobbs said.

Ayers scored his second goal four minutes after halftime and later forced a penalty kick when he was brought down in the box from behind in the 62nd minute. Kaya Newkirk converted the penalty for Central.

Ayers had chances for a hat trick turned away. With 18 minutes left, the ball was at his feet when Poplar Bluff keeper Justin Moses got his hands on it. Two minutes later, Ayers found himself with a breakaway chance but his shot on the run sailed over the crossbar.

"I thought tactically we spread the ball wide, we utilized every player on the field, had few touches, got the ball off our foot, found the back of the net," Dobbs said.

Moses, a freshman, made 16 saves, including a pair on a corner late in the first half. Cruz got a head on the cross that Moses deflected but the rebound bounced to Central's Nate Albertson and Moses recovered in time to make a chest-high save.

The Tigers had 10 corner kicks to Poplar Bluff's three, but the Mules converted one for their lone goal.

Hank Traxel's volley in front was deflected out to the middle, where freshman Alex Ketcherside pounced on it and put it into the net in the 56th minute.

Poplar Bluff had a goal waved off midway through the first half when junior Nik Rowland's pass put Daniel Lozano behind Central's last defender as he redirected it into the goal.

Central keeper Carson Retter made six saves.

"Again, everybody has a job to do on the field and I thought everybody did a great job tonight," Dobbs said. "Definitely proud. Looking forward to next week."

Central will play at a tournament in Hillsboro starting Monday.

The Mules, meanwhile, travel Friday to face Rockwood Summit, the top-ranked team in Class 3.

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