By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Central's boys soccer team has hit a bit of a rough spot at the end of the regular season, and the Falcons' struggles continued on Wednesday night in their regular season finale against visiting Clarke County.
The Falcons mustered little pressure against Clarke County's defense, and the Eagles delivered a pair of second-half goals to top Central, 2-0. The loss was Central's third in its last four games and was the second straight match the Falcons have been shut out.
"We haven't played our game in the last [four] games. ... I was missing some players, I was missing a captain, but we made some mistakes," Falcons coach Ted Poor said.
Central (8-5-2 overall/Bull Run) was playing without junior midfielder Franklin Hernandez on Wednesday, forcing Poor to go with a more inexperienced midfield against the Eagles (7-7-1 overall/Bull Run). Both teams were locked in a possession battle during the first half, as Central and Clarke County combined for just five shots, but the Eagles finally found some offense early in the second half.
"I had a talk with Christian [Plummer], the other forward, and I said that we've just got to start moving forward and we've got to want the ball," Clarke County senior Anthony Marasco said. "We started doing that and we were both able to find the back of the net, which was good for the team."
Marasco and Plummer hooked up for a goal just nine minutes into the second half. Marasco was able to chase down the ball as it rolled away from the net before chipping a pass over his right shoulder directly to Plummer, who was positioned about 10 yards from the goal in the middle of the box. Plummer headed the pass as Central goalkeeper Jose Martinez (two saves) collided with him in an attempt to bat the ball away, and the ball rolled softly across the goal line.
"I knew [Plummer] was making a backside run, so the object was just to get the ball into the 18. He made a nice hard run on it, put a head on it and just put it right past the keeper," Marasco said.
Clarke County held the Falcons' offense at bay for the rest of the match, although Central did have a chance for a goal on a free kick from 30 yards out by Taishi Ukai with 6:45 left to play, but Ukai's shot sailed wide right.
Marasco dealt the clinching blow for the Eagles with 2:30 remaining, as he corralled a nice through ball from teammate George Novakowski just inside the box before smoking a shot into the top right corner of the net.
"Beautiful ball from George, and something that I usually sky there. I took one second before I took the shot and really just focused and put it in the back of the net," Marasco said.
Central mustered just four total shots in the loss -- two in each half -- compared to nine shots by Clarke County.
"I think we controlled [possession] somewhat, and also we were balanced pretty well in the center part of the field in what we were trying to do," Eagles coach Scott House said. "Good of our defense, too, pulling the offside trap. It kind of held their forwards off of us a little bit. It kind of had them messed up a little bit too in the first half."
The Falcons were called for eight offside penalties in the match, including five in the first half.
"I think that we got a little bit confused with the offside trap because we got called on that too many times," Poor said. "We talked about it at halftime, how to break that down and our guys just didn't do it. And we were playing too many long balls. That's not our game. Our game is possession."
Despite the loss, Central will still hold the second seed and host a first-round match in next week's Conference 28 tournament, which begins Wednesday.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD