While most of the first minutes were back and forth, Salina Central eventually warmed up and took the momentum and the game away from Eisenhower.
“We felt pretty good at that point,” Eisenhower coach Rick Childs said. “The longer the game went on, the more worn down we were. Once they scored that first goal, it just opened the floodgates after that.”
Despite the biting chill and the consistent mist, the Mustangs seemed to be in their element once they netted their first goal of the night.
After that, the Mustangs scored two back-to-back goals and had other close calls throughout the first half, and Eisenhower goalie Blake Lynch and his fellow defenders tried to keep pace with the slick Salina Central offense.
“The weather should’ve been an advantage to us, because the ball would’ve played a little faster, and we like to play fast,” Salina Central coach Nicholas Owen said. “The first 20 minutes we were pretty dead, but we came and played pretty well after that.”
The Mustangs were up 3-1 at halftime, and quickly scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes of the half. With a 5-1 advantage, Salina Central quickly took away the opportunity for an Eisenhower comeback.
“They’re a very good team and a very fast team, and we’re not—their strength was our weakness,” Childs said. “We spent a lot of time going back, and we couldn’t put anything together. They have great speed, and that’s what we have a lot of trouble playing against.”
Salina Central’s forwards Damion Cooper, Erik Arias, and Jesse Lennon capped off the team’s offensive strike, bursting with speed down the field and often leading their defenders toward the goal.
With 21 minutes left, Lennon scored the team’s sixth goal off an assist from Arias, kicking the ball from three yards out and into the upper portion of the net.
Two minutes later, Arias scored off a Lennon-to-Cooper-to-Arias play. Even though Eisenhower had more coverage near the goal, the Tigers still struggled to outrun the Mustang forwards.
Eisenhower got its final disappointment of the night, when the Mustang offense kicked a low ball 15 yards from the goal with 10 minutes left. Lynch bent down for a simple save, and the wet ball wicked right between his legs and into the goal, making it 8-1.
Because most of his players are much smaller than the Mustang lineup, speed and size were Salina Central’s biggest advantages, Childs said.
“We just need to keep our heads up and keep working and not be discouraged,” he said. There are some teams that we’re going to be competitive with. We have to look at everything as an opportunity to gain experience.”
Owen also said his team will use this game to build on the rest of its season.
“I don’t think we were mentally ready when we stepped off the bus,” Owen said. “I thought we came out pretty slow. We had some opportunities where we could’ve put them away, but we just had trouble finishing overall.”
Salina Central plays its next game Tuesday against Maize, and Goddard will travel to Newton.