HOWARD — The East Knox High School soccer team has taken everything thrown at it so far, and has emerged on the winning side every time.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs faced Hillsdale — an annual rival with a reputation for being physical — and came away with a 3-1 victory on their home pitch.
The Bulldogs (2-0) won because they, for the most part, didn’t allow the Falcons to control the tempo.
“It feels good to start 2-0,” said East Knox head coach Bill Lonsinger. “We lost eight seniors. We had only three starters come back. And we lost to these guys last year. So, to come back and beat them ... I’m proud of the team.”
Kiyaan Wright, a new edition to the East Knox team, scored twice for the Bulldogs. His first came in the 25th minute of the first half, when he traveled from near midfield to score, splitting four defenders along the way. His second came in the 71st minute, when he again split two defenders and fired from outside the goalkeeper’s box.
Wright almost didn’t get to score his second goal. He suffered cramps in his left leg for most of the second half and spent some of that time on the bench. For most of the half, Wright was only partially mobile.
“What can I say about Kiyaan?” said Lonsinger. “He’s been a nice addition. If he keeps scoring two goals per game, I can afford to take him out for cramps.”
Freshman Gage Stephens scored his first goal of his high school career in the 66th minute of the match, catching a rebound and poking the ball past the goalkeeper.
With a 3-0 lead, East Knox went into full defense mode — which actually didn’t sit well with Lonsinger.
“We did that against Licking Valley, too,” said Lonsinger. “We got up, then we started playing defense. We’re playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. I want to work on that. If you score three goals, you should keep playing that way.”
Sure enough, in the 75th minute, Hillsdale got on the board when Brennan Rogers, who had been guarded well by Noah Phillips for much of the match, broke away and smashed a shot past East Knox keeper Joe Byers.
For Byers, who had eight saves on Thursday, the goal was just the second one he had allowed in two contests. Not bad for someone who had never played the position before.
“He was going to split time, but I’ve kept him out there because he’s doing such a great job for us,” said Lonsinger.