Runnin’ Panthers prepare for Salado soccer tourney

Joey Kipfer clears the ball from the box with his head to prevent Fredericksburg from scoring off a corner kick. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Joey Kipfer clears the ball from the box with his head to prevent Fredericksburg from scoring off a corner kick. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

By TAYLOR GRAFFT

The Runnin’ Panthers Soccer team hosted Fredericksburg on Tuesday night in a scrimmage to help them prepare for their tournament in Salado this weekend. The tournament will be a good test for the Panthers who have been playing a tough scrimmage schedule against schools that are in higher classifications.

“The tournament will be a good tell for what we’re going to be next year,” said Coach Darren Bauer. “It’s all 3A teams, so it’ll be a lot of teams we’re going to play (next season) and possibly be in district with. It’ll be a good tell of where we’re standing right now and where we need to improve. We’ve played a lot of really good 4A teams in these scrimmages, so right now it’s really tough on the guys because they know they’ve played really good competition.”

The team put in a solid first half performance Tuesday that saw the Panthers down 1-0 at the halftime break. Liberty Hill struggled in the second half to keep pace with Fredericksburg, but were defeated 4-1.

“We’ve really been working on passing combinations,” said Bauer. “We’re trying to work together and find the positions and spaces that they need to be. The biggest thing we need to work on right now is getting the work rate up. The chemistry is coming together, but that’s still a work in progress.”

One of the attacking areas that Coach Bauer really wants his players to focus on is not just running full speed down the wing and crossing it into the box, but adding an extra element to their wingers’ arsenal. He wants them to cut towards goal and cause problems for the other team’s defenders.

One player who did a good job of that against Fredericksburg was AP Maare.

“When AP went towards goal he created big problems for the other team,” Bauer said. “One of the things we talked about after the game was that our outside midfielders have to make those runs inside.”

Fredericksburg took the 1-0 lead with four minutes before half after a cross from the right side of the box found a free player whose header was redirected into the bottom left corner of the net.

Both teams had about a 10-minute period where they played in their opponent’s half and controlled most of the possession. That period came for Liberty Hill right before Fredericksburg finally broke through and scored on a counter. After Fredericksburg scored, they controlled a majority of the possession until halftime and at the start of the second half.

Fredericksburg scored its second goal in the 46th minute on a cross from the right wing that found a player at the back post, who chested the ball towards goal and just inside the left post.

Seven minutes later, Fredericksburg added a third goal after a Liberty Hill defender made an errant pass back to the goalie and did not see the Fredericksburg player lurking behind. The player for Fredericksburg stole the ball and slid it past the marooned goalkeeper.

Fredericksburg added the fourth and final goal six minutes later when a cross from the left wing found a player in the middle of the box. The player was able to get a head on the ball and flick it to the far post and into the net.

Liberty Hill added a consolation goal with time winding down. A lobed ball from the midfield to the top of the 18-yard box found Caleb Hanson, whose shot was blocked by a defender, but the rebound found Robinson Placek who was able to poke the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper to make the game 4-1.

The Runnin’ Panthers compete in the Salado Tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Salado High School, and return to Panther Stadium for a scrimmage at 5 p.m. Feb. 13 against McNeil High School’s Junior Varsity team.