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ASHS soccer kicks off season; slides to 1-1 early

By MICHAEL MURRAY

AMERICUS – The Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) boys soccer team kicked off their season last week, on Feb. 9, hosting the Worth County Rams. Despite a strong performance from the Panthers on the season’s curtain-raiser, ASHS dropped a 6-3 decision.
The Panthers returned to their home pitch on Feb. 12, hosting the Bainbridge Bearcats. The Panthers evened out their early record with a 4-2 win over the visiting Bearcats.
In the season opener, Worth took an early 2-0 lead in the first half before ASHS’ Arize Anagbogu broke the Panthers’ silence by scoring a goal with 17 seconds left on the clock.
Early in the second half, Jonathan Abarca stepped up to tie the score 2-2 for the Panthers with a shot from nearly 30 yards out.
“It was a beauty,” said Panther head coach, Greg Fowler, in a press release.
Worth then went on to score three more goals in the second stanza. The first two of these goals were possibly preventable, according to Fowler. “These were tough goals because our defense caught Worth offside on both of them, but the calls were never made,” he said.
The Panthers made their final move late in the second half when Fransisco Rodriguez dribbled across the box and shot through a few defenders and the keeper. Rodriguez’s goal was made from about 20 yards out.
Worth went on to punch one more shot into the net to sentence the Panthers to the three-point loss.
After the match, Fowler stated, “It was our first game, and we have found that we have plenty of talented players…”
The Panthers returned to the pitch three days later, on Feb. 12 to take on the Bearcats.
Bainbridge scored seven minutes in, but the Panthers soon tied game with a penalty kick by Abarca. The Panthers scored again in the first half to bring the score to 2-1. Fransisco Gonzalez scored the goal on a through-ball played by Jose Ovando.
The Panthers pulled ahead 3-1 in the second half when Abarca scored on a corner kick, assisted by Gonzalez.
Bainbridge quickly booted another shot into the back of the net to come within one.
Gonzalez scored the Panthers’ fourth and final goal on a ball played over the defense by Abarca. Gonzalez chipped the ball over the keeper’s head to get the goal.
Abarca and Gonzales led the charge for the Panthers, each contributing a pair of goals and an assist. Ovando contributed an assist as well.
Following the victory, Fowler stated, “This was a great game. The team made adjustments from the first game and rebounded well. Our keeper is a freshman and is playing great. He had 11 saves in the game. He’s very aggressive and is improving each game. Our defense is also working great together.”
The Panthers will travel to Moultrie on Feb. 19 for a non-region match against the Class 6A Packers. The Panthers return to the field in Americus on Feb. 23, battling Chattahoochee County in another non-region match.