For the Henry County High School boys’ soccer team, the first 40 minutes against Whitefield Academy last Monday was its best of the season. The host Wildcats played stall-ball to slow down the high-scoring Whitefield squad and conserve energy, while allowing just one goal.
But in the second half, the Cats went away from what had made them successful leading up to that point as Whitefield stretch its advantage to 6-0 to earn the shutout win, which improved its record to 4-1. Meanwhile, Henry started its program at 0-4 with losses to Waggener (7-0), Spencer County (5-3), Fairdale (6-3) and now Whitefield (6-0).
“In the first half, we played one of our best games all year,” Henry coach Jay Dunavin said. “Even though some of our kids didn’t like it because they said it was boring, we played a very good defensive game with a slow pace. Since I knew Whitefield had a high-scoring team, it was a strategy we had going into the game. It was working.”
Henry backpedaled during the second 40 minutes of play when the Wildcats started to play out of position, Dunavin said. Typically, the Wildcats play a 4-4-2 set, but they changed it to a 4-5-1 set to put more pressure on the middle of the field, where opposing teams have been strong. When they got out of position towards the end of the game, though, Whitefield took advantage of the tiring Cats.
“We stressed at halftime about staying patient, but my kids wanted to do some things on their own, and they ended up paying for it a little,” Dunavin explained.
Another factor in Whitefield’s runway victory might have come from the sideline, where Henry was running dry — opposed to 22 players on Whitefield’s roster. To start the contest, Henry had just two subs. Then, both Jarred Singleton and Paul Leet were sidelined with injuries early in the second half. It took away the Wildcats’ top scorer in Singleton and their top assist-player in Leet, and also left them panting for air with no subs for the rest of the game.
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