By JUSTIN RAINS
Aggressive goalkeeping hurt and helped the Palestine boys soccer team Thursday.
The Wildcats got stellar play from freshman Bennett Geirkey for much of their game against Kaufman in the first day of pool play at the Wildcat Classic, but an overzealous Geirkey also conceded a penalty.
That penalty proved to be Kaufman’s only goal, and the Wildcats got a late equalizer from Marcelo Zavala to earn a 1-1 draw. The Wildcats opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over Lancaster.
“I’m glad he’s on my team, for sure,” PHS coach John Absalom said of his goalkeeper. “We all know that to make a deep playoff run you’ve got to have a quality keeper.
“For a coach, you’d rather a kid come into your program as a keeper that’s overaggressive...It’s almost impossible to teach a kid aggressive in goal.”
After a first 18 minutes with Kaufman mostly on the front foot, a Lion attacker made a nice run into the box, where Geirkey attempted to come collect the ball off of the striker’s foot.
But while grabbing the ball the Palestine freshman took out the attacker, and the match official gave Kaufman a penalty kick, which the Lions converted despite Geirkey getting his hand on the ball.
That put the Lions up 1-0, and it could’ve been much worse.
Twice in the game’s first 18 minutes, Geirkey was called into action to make stellar saves against Kaufman’s attack. Also, in the ninth minute, a long Kaufman free kick hit the left post of the Palestine goal, only to be gathered by Geirkey.
The freshman made another spectacular save in the 31st minute, when he managed to deflect a free kick over the bar.
That save was sandwiched around Palestine’s best build-up play of the night to that point, as Palestine twice managed to put shots on goal late in the first half.
The first attack came in the 27th minute, when some nice build-up play released a Alonso Cruz near the 18-yard box, but his shot was deflected and rolled weakly to the Kaufman goalkeeper.
In the 35th minutes, a nice through ball from Luis Ferretiz play a beautiful ball that freed up Zavala, but Zavala’s shot went over the bar despite the open opportunity.
Palestine had the better of the attack in the second half, and almost got on the scoreboard when Cruz played a low cross from the right side into a charging Kaleb Garcia. But, Garcia’s flick went just outside the goal.
Not two minutes later, it was Garcia out wide, and the senior sent a ball across goal to Zavala, who easily slotted home the equalizing goal.
“I felt like we came out kind of nonchalant, even though I had forewarned them that we were playing a pretty good team,” Absalom said. “Seemed like when they scored on us, we picked it up another level.”
Each team had chances after that, with each goalkeeper being called into serious action one more time.
In the 71st minute, a Kaufman midfielder found some space from roughly 30 yards out and took a shot, which Geirkey deflected wide of his goal with a diving effort.
Then, in the 77th minute, Garcia took a free kick that the Kaufman goalkeeper just managed to grab as it was curling away from him toward the corner of the net.
With the 3-1 win over Lancaster to open the tournament, the Wildcats finish Day 1 of the Wildcat Classic with nine of a possible 20 points. They take on Whitehouse at 4 p.m. today to finish up group play.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org