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With usual Central Hardin starting wing Ryan Keeney hunting big game somewhere out west, Bruins junior Isaac Pipta saw Saturday’s game at 17th District rival Elizabethtown as a chance to take advantage of increased playing time. Pipta’s partner in crime Saturday, Central Hardin senior midfielder Zach Fonda, saw Saturday as a chance to take advantage of all the space the Bruins had to work with on the Panthers’ new and fast turf field.
Pipta scored a pair of goals off assists from Fonda, who was involved in his team’s final seven goals as the unbeaten Bruins pummeled the Panthers, 8-2.
“Right now my job is to fill the spot my team needs for me to play,” said Pipta, who has three goals and one assist this year. “I need to play hard and try to create chances for my team.”
The dynamic Fonda created plenty of chances Saturday, but it was really no different than what he has done this season as he entered the game with 11 goals and eight assists in eight games. He now has 13 goals and an area-best 13 assists in nine games.
Fonda said the turf had a lot to do with his offensive explosion.
“Our team plays a lot better on turf,” Fonda said. “We like to move the ball and play to feet and when we can get out in space like that faster, we’re going to get more open goals.”
The Bruins, who have scored four or more goals in six straight games, had plenty of open goals.
Senior Austin Howard got things started in the seventh minute off an assist from junior defender Clayton Ryan before Fonda took over. The Bruins’ lead ballooned to 2-0 with 23:27 left in the first half as Fonda buried a shot from more than 25 yards out and less than 4 minutes later, Fonda found Bruins senior leading scorer Jordan Mabe in the box for another goal.
The Bruins (8-0-1, 7-0 district) cruised into halftime up 4-0 as the Panthers committed an intentional handball in the box in the 29th minute on Fonda’s chip. Senior Austin Wilson tacked on the penalty kick.
The halftime break took Fonda off the field, but not off his roll.
Less than 5 minutes into the second half, Pipta banked in a shot off the left post off a feed from Fonda. With 31:20 remaining, Fonda tucked a shot inside the right post. Junior Jordan Smith made it 7-0 with 28:22 left when he buried an indirect kick off a tap from Fonda and Pipta tallied the Bruins’ final goal with 19:24 left off a pass from Fonda.
“Since Keeney’s on vacation, Pip’s had a lot more playing time and we’re glad he was put in the position to score,” Fonda said.
The Panthers (5-7-1, 2-4) scored both goals with Fonda and other Bruin starters on the bench. Freshman Hunain Abri buried a hard-driven and well-placed shot from more than 25 yards out with 10:22 left and sophomore Nick Coffman scored with 1:03 left.
The Panthers were under the control of assistant Corey Yates, a former Panther great and former John Hardin girls’ head coach, as Elizabethtown head coach Jon Parsons was dealing with kidney stones.
“I know the score was definitely not indicative, but I haven’t been as proud of my team as I am right now,” Yates said. “We’re playing with great tenacity and a great amount of effort.”
Like Fonda, Yates admitted his team’s field played right into the Bruins’ hands.
“They possess the ball so well and you can tell they play better on turf,” Yates said. “You have to be so conditioned to play them because you know for part of the game, you’re just going to be chasing the ball.”
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays at Nelson County at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Elizabethtown plays at North Hardin at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at 270-505-1758 or email@example.com.