Late goal gives Indians win over ECHS

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald

Wetumpka’s Kaio Pelogia (7) assisted on the game-winning goal during Thursday night’s win over Elmore County.

Elmore County erased two deficits on Thursday night but Wetumpka came out on top after a late goal from Arthur Davis gave the Indians a 3-2 win in boys soccer at Hohenberg Field. Kaio Pelogia broke through the midfield before sliding the ball past the defense to Davis who slotted it past the keeper with less than three minutes to go.

“We were running out of time and I knew we just needed a big play,” Davis said. “I saw the ball and took my opportunity. I saw the two center backs go toward (Pelogia) so I just called for the ball. He heard me and made a great pass and luckily I scored.”

Wetumpka (2-1-2) controlled the game in the first half but came up empty on its first two chances in the opening 10 minutes. Despite offside appeals from Elmore County, the Indians got on the scoreboard in the 13th minute after Manny Castellanos turned in a free kick from Brennan Worrell.

Luke Tessier had two chances in the next eight minutes but could not add to Wetumpka’s lead. Elmore County forward Jason Aguilar did not get many chances but he took advantage of them when they came.

After an errant back pass from a Wetumpka defender, Aguilar raced to the ball, beating the goalkeeper with a left-footed shot from the edge of the box. Aguilar had a chance three minutes later but Wetumpka’s Zach Grindle made the save to keep the game tied at 1-1.

“We really wanted to dominate more,” Davis said. “We like to be the aggressors but when they scored, I guess we lost a little hope. We always fight back though.”

Wetumpka grabbed the lead again just before the break when Castellanos and Worrell connected again. Castellanos made a pass just outside the box, allowing Worrell to cut inside of two defenders and release a left-footed shot which bounced off the post and into the back of the net.

“In the last few games, when things started to shift, we didn’t respond as well as we needed to,” Wetumpka coach Desmond Knight said. “But in this game, every time they had an answer, we countered with something and stayed in front.”

The Panthers (1-4-1) came out of halftime with more energy and had more chances to score. In the 49th minute, Aguilar found himself one on one with the goalkeeper and put the ball into the bottom left corner to even the score again.

“It’s important to always know you’re in the game,” Elmore County coach John Hilbish said. “We just told our guys that we are a better team than they are. They just needed more confidence in themselves.”

The game started to slow down in the middle of the second half as the game became more physical and both teams were without a shot on goal for a 13-minute span. Things took a quick turn when Elmore County looked to take a 3-2 lead in the 63rd minute.

The Panthers played a ball over the top of Wetumpka’s defense and forward TK Barris beat Grindle to the ball, sending the ball toward the goal.  However, Wetumpka left back Leo Castellanos slid in to knock the ball off the line to keep the game level.

“Leo is one of those guys we ask to do a lot,” Knight said. “He’s a defender but he was a part of the attack a lot tonight. For him to put in those miles and then make a stop like that, that felt like it took the wind out of Elmore County and empowered our guys to stick with it.”

Aguilar had another shot saved with 11 minutes to go but that was the last attack of the night for the Panthers. Elmore County spent most of its night on the counter attack and finished with five shots on target.

“I think if we passed the ball more we would have more chances than we had today,” Aguilar said. “We just have to keep practicing and come back to play hard next game.”

The late goal from Davis gave Wetumpka its second win in the last three matches. The Indians will be back in action tomorrow night with a home match against Pike Road before traveling to Stanhope on Saturday to begin area play.

“That’s definitely a big boost to morale for us,” Knight said. “The momentum we have to build off now is great. We’re finally starting to click. They gritted that one out.”

Elmore County is hoping to bounce back quickly from the loss with area play starting this week. Hilbish is still staying positive despite the Panthers’s streak of five games without a victory.

“They still believe what I tell them,” Hilbish said. “They know what they’re potential is and they know how good they can be. When we get a dry field to play on again, we’ll be a different team.”

Elmore County responded with a 5-4 win over Chilton County on Saturday. The Panthers got two goals from Kevin Jenkins and one each from Barris, Devin Dewberry and Alex Simmons.