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Garcia’s hat trick lifts Bobcats

Senior scores three goals to help Marshalltown boys’ soccer team beat Fort Dodge

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown senior forward Fernando Garcia (14) has his sliding shot saved by Fort Dodge goalkeeper Adam Pearson (0) during a soggy second half Friday night at Leonard Cole Field. Garcia scored all three Bobcat goals in a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in a CIML Iowa Conference clash.

An all-senior lineup represented the Marshalltown boys’ soccer team well for the first half, but the lineup that has been clicking did them two better after the break.

MHS senior forward Fernando Garcia scored all three goals, including two second-half tallies as the Bobcats beat back Fort Dodge 3-2 in Friday’s CIML Iowa Conference clash at Leonard Cole Field.

Marshalltown (9-8) had to rally back from a 2-1 halftime deficit after the surprising Dodgers (2-1) took the lead into intermission. After Garcia swiped the ball from the Fort Dodge defense for the icebreaking goal less than three minutes into the match, the Dodgers dominated the pace of play until the break.

Joshua Meier and Franco Juarez scored for Fort Dodge, but MHS maintained its momentum and put it on display in the second half. Having won four of their previous five games, the Bobcats pulled even shortly after halftime and got the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick with 12 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in regulation.

“It was Senior Night, so it was all seniors all first half,” said MHS head coach Scott Johannes. “We thought about it at the 15-minute mark and said let’s just finish it out this way. It was theirs to have fun with.”

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown senior Jorge Martinez, right, tries to get a shot around Fort Dodge defender Nathan Rethwisch during the first half of their soccer match Friday at Leonard Cole Field.

The Bobcats didn’t panic, converting an early chance when junior forward Richard Toe slipped a pass into space in front of Garcia and he buried it with ease for the tying goal just 3:04 into the second half. Toe, Marshalltown’s leading goal scorer, sat the entire first half as the MHS seniors took a turn in their last home match.

Toe’s impact, however, was noticeable in so many ways, and the scoreboard eventually reflected it. The possession that Fort Dodge had maintained throughout the second half faded away, turning in Marshalltown’s favor. It resulted in a number of scoring chances, too, but Dodgers goalkeeper Adam Pearson did his best to answer the bell.

Pearson made seven saves in the match, but he couldn’t correctly predict which way Garcia was going to go with his penalty kick. Marshalltown senior forward Zach Robson was knocked off his feet by Dodgers defender Nathan Rethwisch inside the goal area, resulting in a yellow card for Rethwisch and the go-ahead tally for Garcia and the Bobcats.

“Those guys have been playing together a little bit more,” Johannes said of his regular starting front line. “Our subs are used to playing their role, at most five minutes at a time, and when we stretched then to play pretty much the whole first half that’s a long time. But we made the decision just to stick with them, we were sentimental for Senior Night.”

The decision didn’t betray the Bobcats in the end, although Fort Dodge didn’t relent. Rethwisch got off one final shot from near midfield with time winding down, and MHS senior goalkeeper Ernesto Tellez batted down the slippery soccer ball before securing it with both hands just as the final buzzer sounded.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

It was one of nine saves Tellez made against a Fort Dodge squad that had been shut out eight times this season.

“There’s so many resources out there, so these guys know who they’re playing,” Johannes said. “Regardless of what we say as a coaching staff of ‘don’t overlook them,’ you do when you’re playing a team with their record. But they’re a much better team than their record.

“In the end, a win is a win, and for us at this time of season these wins help keep that momentum.”

The Bobcats close the regular season with a Tuesday trip to West Des Moines for a clash with the Class 3A No. 4 Valley Tigers. Marshalltown’s postseason opener will be next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against Linn-Mar in Marion.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

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