David Tapia and Andrei Tamas

St. Stephens' David Tapia (10) and Fred T. Foard's Andrei Tamas (11) go for a loose ball at midfield Thursday in Newton. Both squads scored in the second half as the contest ended in a 1-1 tie.

NEWTON — A year ago, the St. Stephens boys soccer team defeated Fred T. Foard by a 1-0 score. For a while it looked like the Indians were going to do so once again, but a late penalty kick by the Tigers led to a 1-1 tie on Thursday night at Foard.

“Heat was definitely a factor in the first half, it was warm,” Foard coach Scottie Goforth said. “But then in the second half we kind of found our stride a little bit going forward. We made some adjustments at halftime that definitely made differences in the second half, but the sun going down was real helpful.

“We’ve got some experienced players here at Foard and they kind of stepped back and analyzed the first half,” he added. “And then they were able to read the game and make their necessary adjustments on the field.”

Neither team was able to score in the first half, but it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities. Foard (2-0-2) gained the first corner kick of the match in the 13th minute, but Conner Josey’s shot was wide left.

St. Stephens (0-2-1) earned a PK in the 17th minute when David Tapia was fouled in the box, but Foard goalkeeper Trevor Holmberg dove to his left to stop the ensuing shot attempt by Lucas Valle-Hammer.

Both teams received free kicks soon thereafter, but Foard’s attempt was caught by Indians keeper Bennet Strahmann while a pair of St. Stephens’ attempts also failed. Both shots by the Indians sailed over the net to keep things scoreless, and despite several late shots by the Tigers, it remained 0-0 at the half.

St. Stephens broke the scoreless tie in the 47th minute, cashing in a free kick by Valle-Hammer. The junior midfielder took the long-range shot and clanged it off the right upright. Holmberg tried to corral it in goal but was unable to do so as the ball rolled into the back of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.

As the match progressed, the Tigers became increasingly aggressive in attacking the goal. That strategy paid off in the 74th minute when Erik Leal was fouled in the box, resulting in a PK. Foard was able to make the most of its attempt, with Carlos Erazo-Rojo putting one past St. Stephens keeper Eduardo Ramierez to tie the score at 1 apiece, where it would remain.

“We actually switched keepers. The first keeper in the first half (Strahmann) tweaked his back and the second keeper (Ramierez) came in and he did really well,” St. Stephens coach Roger Mueller said. “He came up big, made some big saves. Obviously saving a penalty kick is pretty tough to do, but he did really well. I’m proud of him.

“I thought that the game went back and forth, and Foard plays really well across the width of the field,” he continued. “… It went back and forth and we had a lot of chances in the second half as well. I think we were trying to hold the lead and they got one in, so credit them for playing hard.”

Foard hosts Crest on Tuesday, while St. Stephens travels to East Burke.

Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. 

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