By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Clarke County was forced to do some shuffling to its lineup for Friday's Bull Run District boys soccer matchup with host Central, but the visiting Eagles still proved to be too tough to handle for the Falcons.
The Eagles maintained solid possession of the ball for most of the match, allowing them to control the tempo in the 3-0 victory. The win was the seventh shutout for Clarke County this season.
"We were a little nervous coming up here and playing Central -- they've been playing everybody pretty tough," said Eagles coach Scott House. "We moved some guys in some different positions out here tonight, and they stepped up and did real well."
Although Clarke County (10-1, 8-1 Bull Run) was eventually able to find offensive success, particularly in the second half, the Eagles struggled early to find a rhythm against the Falcons' defensive line.
Central (5-5-1, 3-5-1) showed a defensive scheme that Clarke County had yet to see this season, and the Eagles were held scoreless through the first 28 minutes of action despite launching six shots at the goal, in addition to several corner kicks over the span.
"They were marking our top two guys, they had two defenders on each one of them and they were spreading them a little bit," House said. "It took us a little while to get through that, but we were able to keep them spread and then come down through the middle on them when they did that."
The Eagles finally broke through in the 29th minute of play when they launched a furious attack against Central goalkeeper Jordan Umstead. Clarke County's first shot was headed away by Falcons defender Stephen Hamrick, and that shot was immediately followed by another shot by the Eagles that was blocked by Umstead.
Umstead made another save, but the ball bounced to Eagles senior Connor Shendow, who was able to sneak the ball into the left side of the net to give Clarke County a 1-0 lead.
"It was almost like [Umstead] had a wall at the goal," Shendow said. "Shot, keeper saved it. Another shot, I had a defender there. It was just a moment where you're in the right place at the right time."
Umstead finished with 12 saves for Central, while Eagles keeper Alex Sefton notched six saves. Clarke County outshot the Falcons, 22-8.
Clarke County took the 1-0 advantage into halftime before quickly extending the lead just several minutes into the second half as junior Davey Hardesty connected on a 15-yard shot from the right of the goal in the 45th minute.
"[That goal] was huge -- [Hardesty's] been good for us. I think that's 17 or 18 goals on the year for him," Shendow said. "He's definitely carrying us up top, and I think everybody in the district knows that."
"Those two up top, Connor [Shendow] and Davey [Hardesty], they pressure so much," House said. "Not only do they pressure the back line, but they pressure back on the team, and I think that was key tonight."
Clarke County added another goal for good measure in the 61st minute as Shendow found Theodore Biddle-Snead open in the penalty area, and Biddle-Snead knocked down the 15-yard shot to set the 3-0 final margin.
"We were doing a good job of controlling the ball in the middle of the field," House said. "When you can hold the ball, you can do a lot of things, and we were doing a really good job of that."