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Bobcat boys soccer shuts out Johnston in substate semifinal

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown juniors Jose Torres (7) and Rene Hernandez celebrate after Hernandez’s goal in the 74th minute in the Class 3A No. 5 Bobcats’ 3-0 victory over Johnston in the 3A Substate 4 semifinals on Wednesday. MHS moves on to face Southeast Polk in the substate final on Saturday.

ANKENY — A year ago a promising season for the Marshalltown boys soccer team came to an end at Ankeny Centennial high school after a close 2-1 loss to the Jaguars in the substate playoffs.

On Wednesday the Class 3A No. 5 Bobcats returned to that pitch for another substate semifinal, but this time they would be the team cheering at the end. MHS exorcised some demons at the expense of Johnston on the way to a 3-0 victory in the Class 3A Substate 4 semifinals at Ankeny Centennial, and junior Rene Hernandez said it felt great to flip the script.

“We came into this game knowing that we ended here last year and we know we did not want to come out of here with a loss this year too,” Hernandez said. “We came out with the win and we are really, really happy.”

Southeast Polk then beat No. 4 Ankeny Centennial in the second game of the doubleheader, which set up a CIML Iowa Conference showdown in the finals in Pleasant Hill at noon on Saturday.

While the Bobcats (15-2) came out victorious, they had to withstand quite the offensive firepower from the Dragons (9-9). Marshalltown had a 1-0 lead at halftime despite being outshot 14-3 in the first 40 minutes.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown senior Brandon Ordaz Sanchez (4) winds up for a shot on Johnston goalkeeper Eduard Stancu during the first half of the Bobcats’ 3-0 win over the Dragons on Wednesday.

That first goal came early in the 13th minute, when Jose Torres connected off a pass from Hernandez and beat Johnston goalkeeper Eduard Stancu on a slow ball that just caught the opposite corner of the goal.

Torres’ shot was the first of the game for the Bobcats while the Dragons had already sent a flurry of shots at MHS goalkeeper Jesus Munoz, so Torres said breaking the seal with that goal was an important moment.

“It was great because we didn’t have many chances in our first half, so that built our confidence because we weren’t playing at all. They were dominating the whole game and that goal wasn’t just for me, it was for all my teammates,” he said. “It came from the defense to the middle, the middle to the offense and I scored. That built our confidence and that’s when we started playing how we’re used to playing.”

Torres would find the net again early in the second half in the 47th minute, but this time the shot was all him. Hernandez found Torres in the middle of the field around 45 yards from the goal, but Torres made a quick move to his left and sent a rocket shot that just caught the bottom lip of the crossbar and bounced in for a 2-0 lead.

Last year the Bobcats’ season came to an end after Samuel Estrada just missed an open shot off the crossbar in the final minute against Ankeny Centennial, so Torres said that felt like a little redemption sneaking his second goal in.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - MHS junior Kabba Pins (3) makes a run into the box during the first half against Johnston.

“As soon as they gave me the ball I saw space on the left side of the defender, and I knew that was his weak side because he was a righty,” he said. “I had to go left, and that gave me an advantage to take a step and think where I was going to shoot it, and I shot it in the corner and that’s where it went in.”

Marshalltown would cling to its 2-0 lead for the next 20 minutes as Johnston turned up the heat offensively. Time and again the Dragons would get a good look due to some great footwork and passing, but Munoz and the Bobcat defense held strong.

Munoz would finish the night with eight saves while Johnston pelted him with 18 total shots. Throughout the onslaught, Munoz said he had a singular focus.

“I just had to focus on the ball, that’s it. I gave it everything I’ve got,” Munoz, who took a nasty slide to his knee but remained in the game, said.

MHS head boys soccer coach Scott Johannes said this might have been Munoz’s best game of the season.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“He didn’t have a bunch that were just right at him either,” Johannes said. “He was moving left to right and up top, he had several that were just over the crossbar and he got a finger or a knuckle on it. It was a great showing for him in the box.”

The final, back-breaking goal came from Hernandez in the 74th minute. Torres made a pretty move to get by three defenders who had boxed him in on the sideline at midfield, then he found Alex Angel Fernandez in the middle of the field who in turn passed to a streaking Hernandez coming down the left side of the pitch.

“I saw the open space and started running and I got the pass,” Hernandez said. “It was a 1-on-1 situation and I like those odds, so I took my chance and it ended up perfect and I scored the goal.”

The Bobcats took advantage of every opportunity they were presented, which is how they won a game 3-0 despite being outshot 18-8. Johannes said his guys did well to not get frustrated throughout the contest and keep working on the attack.

“Looking at the first half, we had just a couple of shots but one goal,” he said. “We were looking forward to the second half, going with the wind behind us, but again that didn’t happen because of the quality of opponent. I don’t think we were picky on shots, we just didn’t get them tonight. But we got enough though.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

The boys had a great cheering section in the stands as well, with the blue and red of Marshalltown heavily outweighing the purple-clad Johnston fans, and Torres said that provided an extra spark.

“That helps us build our confidence and play for the community,” he said.

Even with the win, the Marshalltown boys know they can’t allow a team to possess the ball like the Dragons did on Wednesday night moving forward.

“We have to play 80 minutes of good soccer,” Johannes said. “In the first half we struggled getting two passes together and we are still not really playing what we want to do. We will eventually get to our level, maybe we are peaking at the right moment and it will all come together Saturday.”

After keeping a hungry Johnston team off the scoreboard, Munoz said he’s ready to do the same to Southeast Polk.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“I’m gonna keep this clean sheet going and give it everything I’ve got,” he said.

Hernandez, who had a hand in every point scored on Wednesday, said it will all come down to how the boys combine to work toward the win.

“I think our motivation is a big, big key,” he said. “We have to stay disciplined and keep each other working hard.”

Marshalltown 3, Johnston 0

At Ankeny

JOHNSTON 0 0 — 0

MHS 1 2 — 3

First half

MHS — Jose Torres (Rene Hernandez), 12:06.

Second half

MHS — Torres (Hernandez), 46:15.

MHS — Hernandez (Alex Angel Fernandez), 73:16.

Goalkeepers — JHN: Eduard Stancu (7 shots on goal-4 saves); MHS: Jesus Munoz (8-8).

Shots — JHN 18, MHS 8.

Shots on Goal — JHN 8, MHS 7.

Corner Kicks — JHN 6, MHS 1.

Yellow Cards — Erik Catus, JHN, 63:01; Kabba Pins, MHS, 68:25.

Red Cards — Alvin Brisbane, JHN, 78:05; Jose Mendoza Aguilera, MHS, 78:05.