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Schlarman’s Chris Alvarez steals the ball from Hoopeston Area/Bismarck-Henning’s Kraig VanWieringen during Tuesday’s game at Hoopeston.

Coming off back-to-back Vermilion Valley Conference championship seasons, Hoopeston Area/Bismarck-Henning might have felt as though it had an edge over the Schlarman Hilltoppers.

That’s just what HABH coach John Klaber was afraid of. The Cornjerkers had won the last four meetings, with Schlarman’s last win (5-3) in the rivalry coming on September 15, 2005.

But Tuesday, the Hilltoppers took a step in regaining their title, defeating the Cornjerkers 4-2 to stay undefeated in conference play.

“This is great for the conference,” said Schlarman’s Brett Carroll. “For the last two years, we haven’t beat Hoopeston. We are 0-for-4 in the last two years that I have been on the team. It’s a (Class AA program) and that helps us a lot in the seed meeting.

“Hopefully that will help us get a higher ranking in our sectional and help give us a boost in the conference.”

Carroll, a junior, missed last season with a torn ACL — an injury which occurred while playing in a club game for the Little Illini — and was simply glad to have the opportunity to play against HABH.

He played a vital role in the team’s offense scoring two second-half goals, and assisting on one of two first-half goals by Scott Showers.

“He did a good job finishing and did real well,” said Schlarman coach Ed Barney who picked up his 96th win as the Hilltoppers head coach. “Refugio (Guerrero) did a really good job on the back. If he controls the back, that allows Brett to move a little.

“The first half, Brett was a little sluggish. He wasn’t moving and at halftime we talked a little bit and he said he was going to get his head back in the game. He did a pretty good job of that and he went to goal. When he goes to goal, he’s got a good opportunity to finish because he’s good left footed and right footed.”

Carroll’s eventual game-winning goal came just five minutes, 25 seconds into the second half before adding another with 26:42 remaining in the game to push the Hilltoppers’ lead to 4-1.

While Klaber wasn’t exactly happy with his team’s defensive performance, he credited Carroll with taking advantage of the opportunities when they were there.

“Brett played beautiful ball today,” said Klaber. “Credit to him, he recognized our defense wasn’t picking up anything and he made us pay for it two or three times. That’s something on the defensive side that you never let a team do, and we let him do it multiple times. That’s something that we’re definitely going to have to work on. He made us pay and he did great today.”

The Hilltoppers (5-2-2 overall, 2-0 in the VVC) scored the game’s first goal just over three minutes into the first half on a possession that started on a corner kick. Showers took advantage of a shot at close range, and nearly netted his second goal just over 11 minutes later when his shot bounced off the left post.

On his next opportunity, he knocked a header in with just over 11 minutes to go in the half, giving Schlarman a 2-0 lead.

Kraig Vanwieringen scored the Cornjerkers’ first goal on a penalty kick with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.

But HABH (4-3-1, 1-1) couldn’t find the back of the net again until just under a minute to go in the game on a goal by Hugo Sanchez.

“Refugio back there really controls it for us and helps us out a lot,” said Carroll. “His speed really does shut down most of their speed. Our defense really stayed solid this game.”

Both teams had 10 shots on goal, though the Cornjerkers put up more attempts (13 shots off goal).

Schlarman keeper Nathan Tissier collected eight saves while HABH’s Tyler Davis had six.

With the postseason seed meeting just around the corner, Klaber hopes his team can use the loss as a wakeup call while Barney is looking for the Hilltoppers to keep building toward not only a VVC title, but a hopeful playoff run.

Both teams are back in action Thursday with HABH taking on Salt Fork/Westville in Catlin while Schlarman hosts Urbana University. Both games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.

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