CLINTON – The River Kings added another teachable moment Monday night to a season that is expected to be filled with growing pains.
Clinton, armed with seven underclassmen starters, battled exhaustively with an experienced Davenport Assumption group for 100 scoreless minutes of action before falling 3-2 in penalty kicks.
Jose Anguiano, who is leading the team in goals (5) as a ninth-grader, missed a potential game-tying attempt that would have sent the contest into another series of five penalty kicks after 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime came and went without a score.
While the Knights celebrated their first win of the season on the field after the contest, members of the Clinton sideline wore solemn expressions, many of which were buried by palms or jerseys.
River Kings coach Matt Hagge's group of penalty shooters included a couple of freshmen, and, in hindsight, he admitted their inexperience in high-intensity moments may have contributed to the misfires.
But he expects a different — and more postive — outcome next time.
"The guys that missed [the penalty shots] make them all the time in practice but that is a lot of pressure," Hagge said. "I feel bad for them for missing their shot but I guarantee they aren't going to miss the next one so this was probably a good learning experience."
There was no love lost between the Mississippi Valley Conference foes, as numerous collisions during the contest resulted in a scattering of bodies on the not-so-soft turf, claiming various minor injuries such as a bloodied knee or twisted ankle — and more than a few players will likely discover fresh lumps and bruises Tuesday morning.
At the 17-minute mark of the first half, Assumption's Dash Lee received a red card and subsequent ejection for an incident with Clinton goalkeeper Zach Connell after a scoring opportunity resulted in Lee sliding into Connell's leg, causing both players to fall to the turf. There appeared to be an exchange of words between Connell, a freshman, and Lee, a senior. Per the match’s officiating crew, there was also physical contact, as at least one official cited a shove, or punch, to Connell’s upper body after the play concluded as justification for the red card.
"We knew this team [Assumption] was going to play like this and they are notorious for playing like this," Hagge said. "I told my guys ahead of time to keep a clear head and play their game and the refs will call what is right."
Davenport Assumption controlled the first half, consistently keeping the ball on its side of the field and flirting with several scoring chances that often stalled from a River King defenseman poking the ball away at the last moment. The Knights won the majority of 50-50 balls, though, using their healthy size advantage to possess in-between balls.
After the intermission, Clinton seemingly corrected the contrariety of intensity, eventually drawing the praise of its coach, who said the team turned in its best performance in the second half and overtime.
"We have to learn how to body up from the beginning," Hagge said. “We don't do it until we get mad... we were passive and cautious, too scared to go in for the ball.
"They have to realize and have some confidence that they can start the game that way, they will open up the game with that toughness rather than waiting to see what they are up against."
Clinton (2-4) will return to action with a trip to Davenport West on Wednesday.