Sports

Two up, two down: Blue Devils overcome losing two players to make two-goal lead last

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 20, 2019 3:10 am Updated: Sep. 20, 2019 3:40 am

QUINCY -- Ron Bridal didn't have the luxury of calling a timeout to hit the reset button.

That might have been for the best.

The Quincy High School boys soccer coach would have disrupted the way his players were taking care of business on their own.

The Blue Devils lost two players to red cards during the second half of Thursday night's game against Quincy Notre Dame, going a man down with 30 minutes to play and two down for the final 12 minutes. Yet, they never surrendered a goal, packing it in defensively to preserve a 2-0 victory at Flinn Stadium.

"We were all a little nervous," QHS senior defender Blake Peter said. "But we stayed tight and held on. We held strong and worked together."

They did it with just a few suggestions from the sidelines.

QHS led 2-0 in the 50th minute when Zach Nuttelman was hit with his second yellow card, which is the equivalent of a red card and resulted in his disqualification. The Blue Devils (5-4-1) adjusted by shifting senior midfielder Jack Bartley to a center back and going with one less attacker.

"We knew as soon as the first one happened we had to get the word in there what we were going to do and how we were going to stay organized," Bridal said. "That organization and preparation in practice paid off tonight."

It become more vital when Keaton Hull was called for a foul and drew a yellow card in the 68th minute. He was hit with a second yellow card for dissent and went to the bench to join Nuttleman, but the Blue Devils never flinched.

"We all really believed in each other," QHS senior forward Nick Kelley said. "Two guys down, Coach Bridal had a system and a plan and we stuck to it."

QND (5-5) wasn't nearly as disciplined.

"I think we should have played more calmly," QND senior defender Keegan Klingele said. "We kind of freaked out a little bit. We were playing all over the place. We should have stayed calm, kept the ball, moved the ball, but we didn't do that at all."

The Raiders managed just four shots on goal the final 30 minutes despite the advantage.

"They hunkered down and defended," QND coach Greg Reis said. "I thought we panicked a little bit. We didn't create enough chances throughout the flow of the game."

That happened well in advance of the red cards. The Raiders strung together a series of passes in the opening minute of play and attacked freely early before everything shut down and became a midfield game.

The teams combined for three shots in the first half.

"We didn't play well from the get-go I didn't think," Reis said. "We came out flat somehow. We were flat-footed and didn't work hard.

"Our crossing attempts were poor. Our service was either slow or delayed or flighted too much. It wasn't good."

Less than five minutes into the second half, the Blue Devils changed the way the game was being played.

Pressing forward on the right wing, Kelley found space about 30 yards from the net and ripped a hard liner into the upper corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.

"I noticed the defender lacking a little bit," Kelley said. "So I took a step to the right and pulled one. That's what happens when you hit shots."

It caught everyone's attention.

"That's SportsCenter top-10 worthy," Bridal said. "That was sweet."

The second goal was similarly high quality.

Kelley fed Hull making a run up the left wing. Hull carried the ball forward and buried a left-footed shot into the far side of the net less than two minutes after Kelley scored to double the lead.

"We told them at halftime that we have to play the ball earlier," Bridal said. "Nick did what we asked."

It put QND in the unenviable spot of playing two goals down.

"We had some lapses on defense, couldn't score and that was it," Klingele said.

All the Blue Devils had to do was hold onto a lead with dwindling personnel. Somehow they made it look easy.

"That leadership is something you can't do without," Bridal said. "Brutal battles like this on a hot night, you have to have somebody steady out there. Our guys were that. That shows the experience they have."