BY AARON PATTERSON email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Winning the program’s first sectional title made last season one the Covington Trojans soccer team will never forget. That is where they would like to see themselves again this season. And that’s what the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils are striving to accomplish.
In their first year as a soccer program (independent of Hoopeston Area), the Blue Devils are making strides. They nearly picked up their second win of the season and as a program, but the Trojans scored two goals in the second half, including Justin Long’s game-tying goal in the 20th minute, and the game ultimately ended in a 2-2 tie.
“It’s a little frustrating, but Covington is a good team,” Skylar Nuetzmann said of the draw. “I think we put up a pretty good fight against them. In past years, they’ve (won) sectionals and all that. I’m happy with my team, I’m happy with the performance we gave, and I can’t ask for any more than that.”
Bismarck-Henning led twice in the contest, and its pressure, at times, gave Covington fits. But, the Trojans were able to capitalize on enough of their opportunities to draw even.
Unfortunately for coach Ryan Sowers and the Trojans, they fell short on opportunities that they felt could have put the game away.
“They did a good job at getting us pressure,” Sowers said. “But, obviously, we did have our opportunities. We just couldn’t finish. It’s kind of been the story so far. We haven’t scored a lot of goals this year. We are putting ourselves, I think, in a good enough position to do so, we’re just finishing.”
Covington (3-1-1 overall) out-shot Bismarck-Henning 15-4 but could manage to get only two goals to the back of the net.
The Blue Devils (1-2-1) converted on their only shot on goal in the first half when junior Skylar Nuetzmann sent a shot from about 30 yards out toward the goal. It bounced over the head of the Covington back-up goal keeper who had just entered the game as an injury replacement.
“I think that boosted our confidence way up,” Nuetzmann said. “Once we scored that goal, I believe our confidence went up, and that’s when we started being intense.”
Covington’s Zeb Newlin evened the score in the 43rd minute, but the Blue Devils responded when Blake Reifsteck scored on a rebound seven minutes into the second half. The momentum was seemingly in Bismarck-Henning’s favor until Long’s goal (assisted by Newlin) secured the tie.
“I felt like we were doing a lot better in the second half,” Newlin said. “We were actually getting in goal, finally. We just had to settle down and actually try to make the perfect shots.
“They were definitely pressuring us in the red zone, around the 18,” he added. “That was really throwing us off. They are just a quick team and we needed to execute better.”
Execution, or rather finishing, has been the Trojans’ primary concern this season as they attempt to reach the same level of success as last season.
Despite Covington’s recent success, the Blue Devils didn’t enter the game anticipating a loss. First-year coach Ryan Reifsteck has been preaching to his team that even though the program is in its first year, that doesn’t mean it can’t compete.
“I’ve told them from the get go, it’s not their first year of soccer,” he said. “It’s our first year together, but they’ve played the game of soccer and they’ve done well at it. I want them to compete every game. I don’t want them to walk on the field and feel like any program that’s been around for a while has anything on us — just because it’s the game of soccer. I’ve preached that to them a little bit.”
The Blue Devils will be back in action on Wednesday hosting Salt Fork. Covington is scheduled to host North Putnam on Saturday.