Youth plus experience equals quick 2-0 start for Bulldogs
It’s amazing what difference a year and a few new players made for the Palisade boys soccer team.
Last season was a difficult one for the freshmen-loaded team, which finished 1-13. But a more aggressive Bulldog squad, with new addition Marcus Combs, already has surpassed last season’s victory total by winning its first two games of the season, including Monday night’s home opener, 4-1, over Eagle Valley.
Combs, who was sidelined during his freshman season with a knee injury, emphatically returned, scoring the first two goals for Palisade.
The first came when senior Spencer Jackson’s pass squirted out of a crowd of defenders, presenting Combs with an open net.
During the closing moments of the first half, Combs showed his strength, muscling away from two defenders on a breakaway up the right side of the field before blasting the ball across the net and into the top corner.
Combs gives the Bulldogs a strong striker at the head of the offense, something missing from last year’s team, according to Palisade coach Drake Jandreau.
“(Combs) adds an element that we haven’t had in a very long time,” Jandreau said. “He’s someone dangerous up top that the defense has to take care of. He opens things up for Spencer, and Austin (Stellmach) and everyone else moving forward. He’s a hard worker that defenses will have to reckon with for the rest of the year.”
Palisade continued to push the pace in the second half, beating Eagle Valley up the wings with through balls generated from the middle of the field, something the offense is centered around, according to Combs.
“We’re always looking for that through ball,” he said. “We’re always looking for those good passes and looking to score off of it.”
Jackson benefited from wing play in the second half, when Stellmach centered a ball to Jackson in front of the net. Jackson’s second goal came when he was on the wing. He jostled with an Eagle Valley player and attempted to play the ball into the middle. When the defender blocked the ball with his hand, it allowed Jackson a penalty kick, which he buried into the net.
Palisade outshot Eagle Valley 14-3, and it looks to continue its aggressive style against its next opponent, Battle Mountain, whose team speed could present problems to Palisade.
“We still are missing some mark-ups on defense,” Jandreau said. “I know (Eagle Valley) doesn’t have the speed they’ve had in the past, but Battle Mountain is going to have tons of speed on us. I know we’re not a fast team, but we need to be defensively sound, because offensively we’re capable of scoring goals, but defensively we can’t allow them to score.”