The Loudon High School boys’ football team defeated the Greenback School 7-1 in a District 4-1A matchup on April 12.
Although only one goal separated the teams at half-time, three goals in the first eight minutes of the second half sent the Redskins on their way to a resounding victory.
“It was a very disappointing second half,” said Rob Fox, Greenback Headboys football coach. “In the first half I felt like we held out pretty well and fought with them pretty well and in the second half we started to show fatigue. We made a few small mistakes that might not have cost us as much in different circumstances, a different opponent, but when you have a team that has the ball-handling ability that Loudon has, you can’t make a small mistake so. It will cost you something, and unfortunately it did.”
Loudon set the tone from the first shot and created a few chances early on. The middle three dominated possession, but Greenback’s 4-1-4-1 held firm, forcing the Redskins too wide. As a result, most of Loudon’s attacks came down the right flank, with right-back Jorge Aguilar finding plenty of room on the overlap to head in dangerous crosses. Greenbacks Isiah Flowers did well in goal to collect some of those, while Redskins forwards also missed the target a couple of times.
“They grabbed the middle really, really well so we just didn’t get through,” said LHS chief boys football coach Yoni Espinoza. “We insulted something on the outside, then we decided to overtake it. … I asked for a lot of touches, a lot of touches, a lot of touches and we tried to pass more than shoot. Now we have to work a bit more on finishing when we get into the attacking third.”
Loudon’s breakthrough came in the 29th minute. After a corner from Jairo Aguilera was initially cleared, he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and sent a low shot on target. Flowers made a good parry but couldn’t keep the ball and threw it in Oscar Vega’s path for an easy hit.
The Redskins tried to build on the opener and got many more chances down the wings, but Greenback’s defense held on to come into play 1-0 down in the half.
The second half was a different matter.
Vega, who started as a forward but switched to midfield midway through the first half, was used as a left winger in Loudon’s 4-3-3, while Espinoza opened up three goals to let his team play more vertically. The move proved a feat as he scored a goal and an assist in the first eight minutes of half-time as Loudon took a four-goal lead.
Vegas’ goal came just two minutes after the restart. He picked up the ball in midfield and used his speed to drive down the cross and past Greenback’s full-back. On the touchline, he intervened with his right foot and slotted the ball in at the far post for his second of the night.
Two minutes later, Loudon had his third, this time from the right. The Greenback defense tried to sideline Eduardo Villatoro but came at the wrong time and let him through on goal. Flowers rushed out to close the angle but Villatoro made no mistake getting around him to score in an empty net.
In the eighth minute of the half, the Redskins all but guaranteed their win when Vega got free again down his left cross. This time he opted for a low cross that Villatoro was only too happy to capitalize on for his brace.
“They gave us the outside, they tried to stay in the middle, so we just put our strong players on the outside,” Espinoza said. “And that’s how it worked.”
Greenback got one back in the 51st minute, with Noah Pifer rising highest on a corner from Jagger Woodard to go home. However, the little momentum the goal gave the Cherokees was quickly erased when Vega scored his third five minutes later. After the Redskins countered from a greenback corner, Vega turned a low cross against the post but made no mistake on the rebound to seal his hat trick.
Loudon was leading 5-1 after 55 minutes.
The Redskins continued to press, created a few more chances and created many opportunities with their tricky passing and combination game on the edge of the penalty area. The Cherokees never stopped fighting, however, and Flowers and his defensemen did well to keep their opponents at bay for almost 20 minutes.
“Very, very proud (of the attitude),” Fox said. “And I told the guys I can’t be dissatisfied with our performance. Your dedication was first class. It’s just when things go bad in football, it hits like snowballs and that’s what happened to us.”
Loudon’s last two goals came in the last six minutes. First, as he had done several times in the first half, Aguilar found space on the overlap and sent in a cross, only this time it was turned in. Three Redskins jumped for the ball, but it was Vega who got the finishing touches for his fourth of the night.
Loudon’s final goal came with 37 seconds to go when Cesar Gonzalez’s low cross found Giovanni Vega at the back post in a 7-1 win.
The win was Loudon’s second in District 4-1A and gave the Redskins a perfect district record. Although Espinoza wasn’t entirely happy with the performance, he said the results were positive.
“Very sluggish,” he said. “Very, very sluggish. Completely different game than last Friday. Greenback is a very hard working team so whenever you are not playing to your full potential they will take advantage. I’m glad we won but I think we gave too many chances. … It’s a great start for us to come to this new district and be the new one. Our (non-district) schedule, we’re playing really tough teams and the results aren’t going to go our way, but our focus is on winning those games and being able to overload those games.
Greenback suffered the first county loss after wins against Sale Creek and Polk County high schools. Fox said his players needed to pick themselves back up quickly and get back to the next game, a game with Sweetwater High School, as the News-Herald went to press Tuesday.
“I’ve told the guys that the number one goal is to get over it,” Fox said. “You need to get over this quickly. We have a very big district game on Tuesday against a team that is very motivated to beat us, so it will be a difficult game.”
The Cherokees will be back in action at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when they travel to Heritage High School for an out-of-county game.
Loudon also played a district game after the News-Herald went to press and will now host Sweetwater on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.