By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — For more than 37 minutes, Clinton battled Davenport North on even terms Thursday night at the Ashford University soccer field.
Then, North struck twice in a minute to change the complexion of the boys soccer game that ended as a 3-0 win for the Wildcats.
"It was a tough night, but I'm proud of how the kids played," Clinton coach Matt Hagge said. "Although we lost, I don't think we were beaten."
Senior midfielder Dalton Speak scored twice for the Wildcats and said his team was due for some success. North has won two in a row after an 0-3 start.
"This whole season we have been kind of unlucky," he said.
That changed late in the first half.
Speak got the ball in space 35 yards in front of the goal and lofted a shot over Clinton goalkeeper Paolo Marilim and into the net with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
"They weren't pressing me on that one," Speak said.
Marilim came out of the goal several yards, but even if he had been on the goal line he likely wouldn't have been able to reach the shot.
"That first one was just a beauty," Hagge said. "There's not much you can do there."
The second goal, though — which came with 1:30 left — was more of a heartbreaker.
Jerod VanSant set up on the right side for North's seventh corner kick of the half. He sent the ball in front of the net, just missing a connection with Speak. But the ball hit a Clinton player and ricocheted into the net for an own goal and a 2-0 North lead.
"We needed to pressure the other team, and that's what happens when you do," Speak said.
"It wasn't really anyone's fault," Hagge said. "Even though we were down 2-0, I'm proud of how we changed our effort in the second half."
The River Kings (2-6-1, 0-4 Mississippi Athletic Conference) had a couple of attack opportunities early in the second half.
Austin DonDiego was stopped on a leaping save on the first shot, then Hunter Genco appeared to have a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper after making a steal deep in the North end, but Wildcats Eric Perkins raced in an made a nice defensive play.
Speak added an insurance goal at the 25:31 mark, scoring from about 20-25 yards out off an assist from Logan Wright.
"Logan made a nice touch pass there," Speak said. "Tonight we played more of a passing game and made good passes."
Hagge said some fine defense by his back four kept the score from being worse than it was.
"Brandon Burkhart, Travis Mink, Brett Costello and Hang Lam helped a lot," he said. "They played pretty tough back there."
The River Kings will try to end a five-match winless streak next Tuesday when they travel to Davenport to face Davenport Central.