The differences were slight and esoteric between the South Effingham and Effingham County boys soccer teams Wednesday night.
The Mustangs made the most of their chances in a contest played throughout the length and width of the field and held off their cross-county rivals 2-0 at Rebel Field.
“We played hard,” said Mustangs coach Paul Richards, whose team barely 24 hours earlier dropped a 4-1 decision to Benedictine. “It was one of those things where we needed to right the ship. I don’t want to say it was a make or break, but for a young team, it was good to see.”
Nick Howard scored the first goal for South Effingham, with less than 6 minutes remaining in the first half. A Mustang throw-in deep in Rebels territory found its way to Howard, who lobbed a half-volley from the top of the 18-yard box over keeper Caleb Grovenstein’s head and into the net.
Each team had good scoring chances in the first half barely miss. Nik Figura had a long run past the Mustangs defense and fired a shot from the right side that got by Mustangs keeper Ian Anderson but glanced off the crossbar.
Two and a half minutes later, Anderson boomed a direct kick from 65 yards out, and James McGahee’s header attempt on the blast sailed over the net.
“The possessions went both ways,” said Rebels coach Mike Bacyznski. “We just have to finish our chances. We didn’t do that at all. We were creating opportunities going forward. We didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
McGahee and Grovenstein collided midway through the second half as McGahee tried to get into position for another Anderson free kick from midfield. The Rebels regained possession and Jonathan Slater broke through the Mustangs defense, only to have Anderson challenge him and turn away his breakaway attempt.
“He’s good,” Baczynski said of Anderson. “He’s big, he’s quick, so he can afford to do that.”
It didn’t take long for the Mustangs to counter, but Marshall Butler’s half-volley from the top of the 18 went over the net. Five minutes later, Anderson blocked Willie Badger’s blast on the run.
With just under 6 minutes left, nearly exactly 40 minutes after the first goal, McGahee struck for an insurance goal.
He banged in Andrew Kennedy’s crossing pass almost right in front of the goal to give South Effingham a two-goal cushion.
Richards was heartened to see his team give a full effort for all 80 minutes.
“That was our entire purpose tonight,” he said. “That showed with the late goal and that we maintained the pressure to the end.”
Said Baczynski: “I’m proud of the way our guys played. They played hard the whole game.”