Hebron Boots Scots from Soccer Playoffs

By Randy Jennings / Contributor

PROSPER – The Highland Park boys soccer team checked off two of first-year head coach Scott Turner’s season goals, a district title and a postseason victory.

But a season that saw the Scots lose only twice ended by the narrowest of margins with a 2-1 defeat to Hebron in the opener of a Class 6A Region I area-round doubleheader on Friday.

The Scots (20-2-3) rallied from a two-goal deficit and made things interesting in the final 10 minutes while chasing the equalizer.

After HP was blanked for the first 69 minutes, John Elmore, one of 19 seniors on the roster, delivered a rocket shot from 25 yards to cut the Hebron lead to 2-1 with 11:06 remaining.

In the closing minutes, Elias Taft had a pair of solid scoring chances turned away by Hebron goalkeeper Evan Mayhew. Reid Valentine’s driving shot from right of the goal sailed over the bar with 1:40 remaining.

Despite having a strong wind at its back in the first half, HP trailed 1-0 at intermission. Michael Von Stein’s powerful header off a well-placed corner kick by Brian Avila accounted for the goal with 15:51 on the clock.

Only a diving stop by HP keeper Justin Ratner prevented a second goal for the Hawks (15-3-4) when left-footer Avila found himself with plenty of time to line-up a laser shot from 25 yards headed for the right corner.

“The wind was something we had to adapt to,” said Turner. “We had some good moments; we just needed more of them. Our team all year was very resilient and we had tremendous leadership from our 19 seniors.”

Hebron made it 2-0 seven minutes into the second half on a tap-in by Copper West. Luke Chou’s cross led to a scramble in front of the Highland Park goal. Ezra Cryer gained possession and passed to his right to the unmarked West.

“The wind hurt both teams,” said Hebron coach Matt Zimmerman. “I think we played better going into the wind. We seemed to control the ball better.”

As a team, the Scots scored 76 goals this season, allowed 14, and posted 12 shutouts. Valentine led the team in goals with 26. Turner praised the hard work and effort of his players throughout the campaign.

“I’m excited about the future, the juniors coming back and some younger players coming up,” Turner said.

Girls: Hebron 1, Highland Park 0

It only three minutes for Hebron to grab the lead on a goal by junior midfielder Layla Thompson.

The final 77 minutes produced chances but no goals as HP’s season ended in the second round of the 6A Region I playoffs for the second straight year.

Throughout the season, defense was the backbone of the Lady Scots’ success. They conceded only 14 goals while scoring 66 and posted 18 shutouts.

“The defense has been there all the way,” said HP coach Aaron McGough. “We had our opportunities tonight but we couldn’t capitalize.”

A great play by HP keeper Paige Binns seemed to provide a spark that nearly produced the equalizing goal in the final 15 minutes. Binns foiled a Hebron one-on-one breakaway by diving bravely to take the ball off the foot of the shooter with 15 minutes remaining.

The save seemed to energize HP’s attack. Arden Rodgers’ shot on the turn from close range was blocked by the sprawling Hebron keeper with 14 minutes remaining.

A minute later, a free kick by Emerson Andrews created difficulty in the box. The bouncing ball was cleared inches away from the right post, but offsides had been flagged against the Lady Scots (21-4-5).

“Highland Park is really good,” said Hebron coach Robert Vaughn. “We knew we to dig down deep. Scoring early was big.”

McGough, whose team won its second consecutive District 7-6A crown during the regular season, praised her players afterward.

“They came together as a team and played hard,” she said. “I’m proud of our girls and proud of our team.”

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