SPARTA — For a long time, goalkeeper Brennen McLaughlin and the Highland defense stood like a stone wall.
Clear Fork peppered McLaughlin and the defense all afternoon long, finally breaking through for a 3-0 victory in boys’ soccer action Saturday at Highland.
“I’m proud of the kids. They never quit or let up,” said Highland coach John Sachleben. “We really hung with them.”
The Scots (1-2-1) were down four players, three who were at the Morrow County Fair and another who was injured. And, they were playing a team that toyed with them in a 6-0 loss last year. But, the Scots hung tough, even though the playing field seemed a bit tilted in the Colts’ favor most of the game.
Clear Fork outshot the Scots 22-2 on the day, including 14 shots in the second half. Despite all that, it was still 1-0 midway through the second half when the walls finally fell.
The Colts had taken a 1-0 lead on a header by Keaton Slaughter early in the first half, but couldn’t get another in the net for quite some time. Several big saves by McLaughlin and one shot that hit the post kept the Colts from pulling away.
That’s when the Scots thought things might turn in their favor. At the 27-minute mark of the second half, Highland had a great opportunity, but couldn’t get off a clean shot. Then, just three minutes later, Garrett Milburn had a free kick from the top of the box, but his shot sailed high.
Clear Fork was finally able to get some breathing room when Seth Stoner scored at the 21:49 mark, then added the final tally when Brody Warner scored on a wide open shot after a nice pass with just 1:28 left.
Despite the loss, Schleban was happy with the play of his defense, especially freshman sweeper Jack Chafee and senior Ben Rinehart.
“They (the defense) were very busy. Jack Chafee played well as he always does at sweeper and I thought Ben Rinehart had a heck of a game as well,” Schleban said. “We reached down and gutted it out. That was nice to see.”
McLaughlin finished the day with nine saves in net. Clear Fork goalie Luke Bailey made just one stop in the shutout.
Highland will be back in action Wednesday at Franklin Heights.