Big, experienced players don't always score the goals -- sometimes it's clutch newcomers that ink up the score pad.
Matt Bayna, Austin Flatt and Brandon Perez would be lucky (with shirts soaking wet) to combine and eclipse 400 pounds on a scale, but the three non-starters proved to be huge on Tuesday.
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They worked together to help Neuqua Valley score the lone goal in the first half in a 3-1 victory over St. Charles North in St. Charles in the season opener for both squads.
"Those guys came in during those last 10 minutes and really brought some energy," Wildcats coach Skip Begley said. "The thing about high school soccer is if you play 12 kids solely you're not going to have those other kids in the long haul when you get to October."
St. Charles North (0-1) had controlled the tempo for most of the first half and had plenty of opportunities to jump ahead or score the equalizer before intermission before Flatt scored.
"I thought we did some really nice things there, but then we make a mistake and it gets compounded," North Stars coach Eric Willson said. "It was good to see that start on the offensive end, and I like how we defended at times, but we have to work harder."
Neuqua Valley (1-0) added some insurance nearly midway through the second half when Jake Loncar was able to get in front of a defender and then dribble his way toward an opening for his first goal of the season.
"My coach said even if you get six scoring opportunities and just put one away you're still doing your job," Loncar said. "I keep that in mind every time I get the ball and make sure I get the ball to someone or take something myself. Just as long as I get off a good shot I'm happy."
Loncar's tally would prove to be huge as minutes later Phillip Legare would slice that lead in half with his goal with 18:35 remaining.
Perhaps momentum was shifting on the host's side?
If so, it didn't last for long as Reed Kurtenbach connected off a corner kick with 13:11 remaining to give the Wildcats a comfortable 3-1 advantage.
"We made some mistakes but we know what we're trying to work toward," Willson said. "If we keep them upbeat and positive, we know that all of this is a process and that good things can happen down the road."