It was hard to reconcile the Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer team’s first game of the season with its second.
Playing against Kenai Central High School Friday night at TMHS, the Falcons hardly resembled the team that got pushed around in a 5-0 loss to Juneau-Douglas High School nine days earlier.
TMHS scored two goals in under 20 minutes and continued to put pressure on Kenai’s defense for the entire first half.
“This was a 180,” TMHS coach Josh Odum said of his team’s turnaround. “I think that first game we were kicking off some rust and we’re always a little timid against JD, they’re the big dogs in town. … This felt good. This is a victory for us.”
But only a moral victory — the Kardinals, which finished in third place at the state tournament last season, scored four unanswered goals to come away with a 4-2 victory and improve to 5-1-0. TMHS drops to 0-2-0
“It was good to finally get everybody to settle in,” said Kenai’s Zach Tuttle, who scored all three second-half goals. “We knew we could beat this team but everybody came in maybe a little too confident and we didn’t settle down and play our game until towards the end.”
It was all Falcons at the beginning of the game. TMHS junior Marc Manlulu registered the first shot on net in the first 30 seconds of play and capitalized on a separate play some four minutes later.
TMHS’ Shay McCormick lined up a free kick from just outside the penalty box, delivering a good strike on net. The ball was struck down and but remained long enough in the goal area (the small box that sits in front of the goal line) for Manlulu to get behind it.
“In there, it gets really chaotic,” Manlulu said. “But I saw the opening and I took it.”
The Falcons added another goal a little over 10 minutes later after freshman forward Logan Miller took a chance on a shot from distance.
Kenai answered back in the 36th minute on Nate Beiser’s goal that brought the Kardinals within one. The visiting team dominated play for most of the second half and finally found the equalizer on an excellent header by Tuttle in the 70th minute.
He wasn’t done there, though.
The reigning Northern Lights Conference player of the year broke the tie in the 76th minute on a lightning-quick rush up the field and added another in stoppage time. Senior Luke Beiser assisted on the first goal and junior Damien Redder assisted on the second two.
“I guess we just got tired at the end,” Manlulu said. “Second half, they stayed on our half for a while … they had so many corner (kick) opportunities, it really stressed us out.”
Despite the loss, Manlulu and the Falcons are keeping their heads up.
“Knowing that we can score against Kenai, we have a chance against anyone else, like JD, West,” he said. “This scoring gave us that little boost.”
After a game against West Anchorage on Saturday, the Falcons host Ketchikan on Thursday and Friday at TMHS.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.