PRESTON — Both Century and Preston boys soccer teams walked onto Joseph T. Larsen Memorial Field with an unbeaten record, but it was the former that walked off it without a blemish on its season after a 3-1 win Wednesday.
It took less than a minute for the Diamondbacks to take the lead — one they never gave up for the next 79-plus minutes. Just 10 seconds after the opening whistle and first kick, the Indians tripped up a Century forward in the box, giving cause for the center ref to point to the spot. One successful penalty later and the visitors had a 1-0 lead on Evan Yost’s goal.
“We weren’t ready,” Preston head coach Kira Matthews said. “(Century is) that team that they know is good year in and year out, and we’re trying to build our program and be good year in and year out. Trying to match that caliber and I think it got in our heads a little bit, and we weren’t quite ready for that right off the bat.”
Preston eventually responded and got it together, creating several quality chances. The best of the first half came in the 35th minute, when Kadin Reese pounced on a loose ball just outside the attacking third, dribbled it to the eve of the box and fitted a searching through ball to Dixon Alder.
Unfortunately for Preston, the ball was barely beyond Alder’s feet and Century’s goalkeeper fell on it, snuffing out the chance.
“That’s a problem we’ve always had is getting ready to turn on the gears and go from the very beginning,” Matthews said. “It takes us 10 minutes before we decide we want to start playing.”
As competitive as Preston was in the latter parts of the first half, all semblance of control of quality play seemed to dissipate the moment the second-half whistle blew. It was almost a repeat of the form the Indians displayed in the first 10-15 minutes to open the game. And, once again, Century capitalized on the poor display, scoring two goals — one apiece from Shaun Abbassi and Dallin Burke — and ending all hope Preston had of equalizing, or perhaps even pulling ahead in the second half.
“I’ve got a few kids I’ve pulled up that haven’t played any varsity, have no varsity experience,” Matthews said. “I think it was the lack of (experience) and it got in our heads. At that point, we’d just given up.”
The first of the Diamondbacks’ second-half goals came in the 56th minute, and was the one goal Matthews said they “earned” rather than were direct results of mistakes the Indians made. Abbassi found himself a little too open 25 yards out during a solid run of play for Century, decided to have a go and ended up placing the ball in the top right corner of the net, well beyond the reach of Preston keeper Zach Burnett.
The Indians did have one final spark left in them toward the end of the game, though. In the 76th, Preston won its only corner kick of the second half and made good on the rare second-half chance. Cooper Lazcanotegui’s arching cross made it’s way into the 6-yard box and to the head of Ramon Rodriguez. Rodriguez somewhat botched his header, but quick wits and quicker feet allowed him to send the ball into the top netting.
Century (3-0-1, 3-0 4A District 4-5) hosts Twin Falls on Saturday. Preston (1-1-1, 1-1-1 4A District 4-50 hosts Pocatello on Saturday.