A late attacking push by Warren Central made all the difference Monday night, as the Dragons scored with 38.4 seconds remaining to escape with a 1-0 boys' high school soccer victory over Apollo in the season opener for both teams at Apollo High School.
Warren Central worked the ball up the left side of the field, drawing several Apollo defenders out of the middle of the field -- leaving Kiza Anzuruni open to take the pass and score the game-winning goal.
Despite the loss, Apollo coach Ryan Poirier remained upbeat with the way his team performed.
"That's the best team we've played all year (including scrimmages)," he said. "That's one of the best teams we're gonna play all year. It was good to see that we were resilient, we played great defense, and we did have our chances. Unfortunately, they played good defense too and limited their mistakes."
Although Warren Central often dictated the pace in the second half, the Eagles found themselves with scoring chances down the stretch.
Harrison Bowman's shot with 13:15 remaining was on target, but a back-line defender cleared the scoring threat before it could reach the goal. A minute later, the Eagles had three consecutive chances at corner kicks but couldn't find the back of the net.
Apollo had its moments on defense, as well, staving off three straight Warren Central corner kicks with 7:05 left to play.
However, the Dragons' last-ditch effort in the final minute helped Warren Central take the win.
"The way they scored their goal was something that's happened to us a few times in scrimmages," Poirier said. "The teams we've played haven't been able to take advantage of it, but it happened this time and they had somebody put it away. If a few guys go out, all of a sudden the guys that were in the middle are gone, and their guy tapped it in."
Poirier expects that the playing experience against a top-notch opponent will only help the Eagles as they head into Thursday's 9th District matchup against Owensboro.
"It shows up as a loss on the stat sheet and the schedule, but I wouldn't take it as a loss, as a coach," he said. "We learned a lot from that game. We played so well and played so hard, I don't have a lot of complaints."
More so than anything, Poirier was encouraged by the tenacity his players showed throughout the humid, muggy evening.
"Everybody was giving it everything they had," he said. "Guys were coming up with cramps because they're laying it all out there on the field. Our bench is a lot of guys who played JV, then they come into varsity and they've already played a full game tonight. We didn't really lose anything when they came in, either, and that was huge.
"It's good to see the heart of the team early. Everybody's playing hard, and everybody wants to win."