MIDDLETON — As Middleton High defender Jacob Duncan cleared the ball out of the Middleton end of the field, his teammates descended upon after.
After facing intense pressure for the final 10 minutes of the game, the Middleton boys soccer team had survived with a 3-2 victory over Vallivue on Tuesday evening.
“They were doing a good job of pressuring us up through the middle and stretching our defenders,” Middleton coach Pete Rossi said. “But they stuck together and kept them from scoring. It was a relief to get Kyle Simpson back, he’s been out for the last five games with an injury (concussion) and he made all the difference in the world tonight.”
With the win Middleton (7-1-1 overall, 7-1-1 4A Southern Idaho Conference) grabs sole possession of second place in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference standings, and coupled with their 5-0 win over the Falcons (6-3-1, 6-3-1) earlier in the season, now also own the tie breaker as the second half of conference play gets underway.
“We’re pretty confident,” said senior midfielder Noe Ayala, who had a goal and assist for the Vikings. “We had a few loses, but we’re working on getting better. We’re wanting to do better than the first half of the season, for sure.”
Ayala had his goal and assist in a crazy two-minute stretch early in the first half which saw three goals scored.
Daxton Wyatt got things going for the Vikings when he took a rebound off a Ayala shot which hit off the cross bar. The ball went straight to Wyatt, who headed it in for the first score of the game in the eighth minute.
Vallivue tied it up in the tenth minute, when Victor Carreon found Hector Arreola running down the right side of the field. Arreola was able to get the ball past Middleton goalkeeper Caden Lohrengel for his first of two goals on the night.
Not even a minute later, Ayala intercepted a cross in front of the Vallivue net, and drove it in to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead.
“We tried to go fast off the start, and I think that caught them off guard,” Ayala said.
Rossi admitted that at the time, he thought the Vikings were going to be playing in a shootout, but the scoring subsided after Ayala’s goal for the remainder of the first half.
Graydon Weber gave Middleton a 3-1 advantage in the 49th minute, converting off of a free kick from Antonio Rossi in the right corner of the field, then Arreola cut the lead back down to one in the 61st minute.
The score stood for the remainder of the game, but not without a late push by the Falcons to get the equalizer.
Vallivue coach Christian Adamson said he had a couple issues with calls that led to Middleton goals, but was happy with the way his players fought until the end.
“I had no disappointments, no faults, nothing I can complain about, besides the officiating tonight,” said Adamson. “The guys, they put it all out there today. They played with more heart than I’ve seen them play in the two years I’ve been here.”
With eight minutes left, a crossing pass in front of the Middleton goal was cleared away by a Cole Heck header, which resulted in a Vallivue corner kick that the Falcons were unable to capitalize on. With four minutes left, Jose Magdaleno missed a shot to the left side of the net, which was so close that initially the Vallivue bench was celebrating as if he had scored.
It wasn’t over until Duncan cleared the ball out of the Middleton zone as the finals seconds of the game were ticking down.
“Every game means a lot from this point forward,” Pete Rossi said. “The team’s playing well. We’re having a hard time keeping it going the whole game every game, but we’ve been playing pretty good ball.”
Lohrengel finished with three saves for the Vikings in the victory.