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Central Hardin’s defense finally crumbled Thursday night in Cecilia, but the Bruins’ offense was more than up to the task to pick them up.
Junior midfielder Zach Fonda had one goal and one assist, senior attacker Jordan Mabe scored twice and junior defender Alec Burgess notched two points as the unbeaten Bruins cruised to a 5-2 win over the makeshift North Hardin Trojans.
Central Hardin (7-0-1, 6-0 district) had held its previous 10 opponents to no more than one goal before North Hardin senior defender Kevin Norton dribbled through several Bruins to score with 7:24 left in the game to pull the Trojans (5-6, 3-3) within 4-2.
The last time the Bruins had given up more than one goal was a 5-0 loss to the Trojans in last year’s district tournament final. In the 11 games since then, Bruins have outscored their opponents 48-8.
“Our defense has improved a lot since last year,” said Central Hardin senior left back Austin Wilson. “But we still have some work to do and we still have higher-level opponents to play.”
Central Hardin coach Mike Wiersema had pulled 7-of-11 starters long before Norton’s goal.
“Still don’t feel any better about it,” Wiersema said of the streak ending.
His players weren’t too thrilled, either.
“We’re not happy. Not at all,” Wilson said. “I think we all just tired out there at the end. Then we lost our shape and lost our focus.”
The Bruins, the only undefeated squad of either gender in the 14-school 5th Region, had plenty of focus in the first half.
Fonda finished off a shot by junior left wing Isaac Pipta in the opening 10 minutes before Burgess scored on a put back of his own missed penalty kick less than 5 minutes later. The Bruins made it 3-0 with 8:14 left in the first half as the Trojans accidentally knocked in the rebound of a shot by Central Hardin junior Jordan Smith. Mabe sent the Bruins into the break up 4-1 after he scored off a feed from Fonda.
“We were moving the ball and making passes to get shots in the box,” Fonda said. “We moved the ball well in the first half.”
With many North Hardin players sidelined, Central Hardin’s offense was at a much higher level than the Trojans’ attack. Central Hardin outshot the 41-13 overall and 20-3 on frame.
Central Hardin took 14 shots on goal before North Hardin took its first, which was buried by sophomore Kyle Blankenship with 12 seconds left in the first half.
“It obviously looked like target practice for them,” said North Hardin coach Jim Stone.
Only the Bruins weren’t quite as on target as they would have liked. The Bruins’ on-frame total didn’t include a pair of shots off the post by Mabe or the Trojans’ own goal.
“We didn’t get good shots. We were a little bit off, so we were lucky to get five,” Fonda said.
Wiersema, however, was pleased with his team’s movement.
“I think we were able to show our attacking creativity,” said Wiersema, whose team has scored four or more goals in six consecutive games. “We had a lot of people tonight who were very dangerous.”
North Hardin, meanwhile, had a lot of people on the bench for what Stone said was a “variety and sundry of reasons.” Among the Trojans not playing were sophomore keeper Josh Sheroan, leading scorer Simeon Packer, sophomore defender Tino Morales, senior midfielder Taylor Yates, junior defender Mitchel Johnson, senior midfielder Chris Wood and freshman midfielder J.P. Stevens. That list doesn’t include injured sophomore defender Chris McGregor.
“It will be a different story come district (tournament) time,” Stone said. “But sometimes you just have to do what you can with what you’ve got.”
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays at Elizabethtown at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. North Hardin plays Boone County at 6 tonight in the John Hardin Bulldog Challenge.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at 270-505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.