BETHALTO — The Civic Memorial Eagles are still scratching their heads on how to log that elusive first Mississippi Valley Conference victory.
Thursday the Eagles welcomed the rival Jersey Panthers to the Bethalto Sports Complex and lost 5-0. After starting 5-0 to start the season, CM is now 5-5. All five losses have come during MVC play. The Panthers improved to 7-2 and 2-2 with the win.
“People want to knock the Valley, they want to talk about the bottom half, the bottom three and Jerseyville and Mascoutah, they're not jokes,” CM head coach Derek Jarman said. “We beat Mascoutah earlier in the year (Metro Cup) and competed with them the other night and Jerseyville is just one of the best coached teams in the area. Scott (Burney), look what he does, he gets great athletes and turns them into great soccer players.”
It took Jersey until the 37th minute to grab a lead, but then it scored twice in the last three minutes of the opening half and tacked on three more goals in the second half to secure the victory.
Burney said starting slow has been a problem for the Panthers this season, but when goals come they have usually come in bunches.
“That seems to be the way we do things, once we get one the second and third ones are much easier,” Burney said. “It wasn't the case in Waterloo, we scored one early there and it's tough to score on them at all. We got some guys that can score. Jake (Ridenhour) scored 25 or so last year and he makes things happen for us. Tonight (Drake) Blackwell got a goal and he works so dang hard, so he definitely deserves it and Luke Palcheff who plays that right wing, he gets a lot of stuff on the left side and Logan Simpson on our left outside wing is really good at servicing the ball.”
The key for Jersey according to Burney was containing CM's talented junior and leading scorer Kaleb Bassett. Bassett entered the game with a team-high 13 goals and potent scorers have been an Achilles' Heel for the Panthers so far in '16.
“He was our main concern,” Burney said. “We've really struggled this year with the other teams having a guy or two and we've lost them in the mix. Actually the last three games that's been kind of our issue. In our last two losses we had a number to stick with and he got away from us and hurt us.
“We didn't man mark (Bassett) in the first half. Eric Walker is a three-year starter on the defense. He's a great player, an all-conference player and it was his responsibility at the sweep position to play heavy on (Bassett's) side and when the ball went over there he was going to cover that up.”
It was Palcheff striking for Jersey late in the first half to swing the pendulum in the Panthers' favor. He tallied the first goal of the game in the 37th minute, assisted off of a free kick by Blackwell.
Then in the final minute of the half, Palcheff rifled a shot high into the net off of a dish from Spencer Bryant, who was playing in just his second varsity contest.
“Tonight it was frustrating in a sense because we're down 2-0 at halftime, but to me it probably should have been 0-0,” Jarman said. “Those two goals, one of them in the final minute, that can't happen. It was a matter of we marked and were in the right spot, but then we weren't in the right spot.”
CM had a good chance in the 58th minute. Trevor Panyik let a shot fly on goal from about 35 yards out, but Jersey goalie Coby Gibson was able to dive and knock it away to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.
The Panthers answered again in the 63rd minute. This time Jackson Kight beat CM goalie Jacoby Robinson right in front of the goal off a pass from David Rogers.
Alan Wendell then scored in the 66th minute on an unassisted goal and Caleb Manns hammered home the fifth and final goal in the 71st minute, scoring on a rebound after Robinson made a save on a shot by Logan Simpson.
It's back to the drawing board for Jarman and the Eagles. He understood the quick start to the season was going to be hard to maintain in league play. The ultimate goal is to change the culture from recent history at CM and it takes hard work daily to accomplish that.
“Five wins is nothing,” Jarman said. “I don't know of a state champion that went 5-0 and said, 'The season is over, let's just crown us now.' People were talking about 5-0 and I immediately said, 'Stop talking about it.' We had five wins and a lot of people said, 'You had six wins the last three years, isn't that a big improvement?' I don't care about a big improvement, I want to improve every single day and get better tomorrow than we were today. For the most part we've done that. We fell down the other night in Mascoutah with effort and at halftime that was part of my speech. 'Are you OK with being CM soccer players where you win two games a year and you're cool with that. If that's it then we need to go in a different direction with the whole roster.'
“It's a positive season, we've had guys working hard all summer. We have guys that are three sport athletes, are very coachable. The Jersey model is there where they have all these great athletes and teach them to play soccer and that's what I want to do.”
Next up for the Eagles is a non-conference affair on the road vs. the Father McGivney Griffins. Father McGivney plays its home games at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville.