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Jackson boys soccer snaps four-game losing streak with win over Cape Central

Senior midfielder Preston LaFave (right) scored the opening goal in Jackson’s 2-1 win over crosstown rival Cape Central last Thursday night at home. Photo by Jay Forness

After suffering four consecutive losses for the first time in 10 seasons, the Jackson boys soccer team ended that losing streak in the best way possible — with a one-goal win over crosstown rival Cape Central last Thursday at home.

Not only was this win sweet for the Indians because it was over the Tigers, but Jackson had also lost to Cape 2-0 back in the Notre Dame Soccerfest earlier this season.

“Hey, the Cape-Jackson rivarly is back,” Indians head coach Zack Walton said. “I love this — this is good for our area. Cape has a good, solid team and has some big, strong kids. Hats off to them for working hard in the offseason and credit to their coach for working their kids.

“Our kids have had this game circled since we lost to them. When that happened, I sure as heck wasn’t excited that we lost that game, but I was like, ‘Hey, the rivarly is back.’ It’s great because it fired our kids up all week.”

The Tigers (14-2-1) had only lost one match heading into the contest as the Jackson (6-9) proved with this win they’re still a team to watch out for despite having a sub .500 record. Three of the Indians nine losses have only been by one goal.

Coming up with the first goal of the contest for Jackson was none other than senior Preston LaFave, who produced his goal in the second half (61st minute) off his left foot and from a nice pass by sophomore Blake Cain. LaFave helped the Indians win their first-ever state championship in 2020 and finish as the Class 4 runner-ups last year.

“After that first loss, coming back here and everyone giving it their all felt good,” LaFave said. “Cape is always going to be physical, and the rivalry is always a good game — this is why I love soccer. We all work well together in the midfield and connected on our passes.”

Cape Central was able to tie things up seven minutes after LaFave’s goal, though, as junior Jose Garcia scored the Tigers lone goal of the game off a miscue by Jackson junior goalkeeper Bradley Loos. Garcia had a free shot at the net after the ball bounced awkwardly off of Loos’ foot from a bad kick attempt.

However, Loos proved throughout the match and especially after that accident why he’s locked down the Indians goalie position all season.

“Loos probably should’ve just tried to put that ball to the side somewhere, but right after that he came back and made two real big saves for us point-blank,” Coach Walton said. “He put his body and face in the way to make the save, so that showed a lot for him to mentally stay in it and come back to make those saves. He also had some pretty good saves in the first half, and I thought both keepers played pretty well.”

Also proving to be key in Jackson’s win over the Tigers was a defender like senior Ryan Berger. Junior Kael Dameron was also another key player in the Indians win as he won plenty of 50-50 balls and played with a lot of intensity the entire match.

“Berger has been out with an injury for a little bit, so we just got him back last weekend,” Coach Walton said. “It’s good to have a senior leader like him back for us, who’s just a good solid player in the back. … Dameron sums up what we’re all trying to do: We are trying to play as intense as we can without fouling and trying to be physical to win 50-50 balls as much as we can.”

Scoring the final goal for Jackson was sophomore Kayden Crooks as he put the ball in the back of the net with three minutes left in regulation to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Central was able to get off one more shot on goal in the final minute, but it was secured by Loos.

“It was good for Crooks to get that goal because he had a couple good chances to score in the first half,” Coach Walton said. “Everybody thinks they look easy, but they’re not. For him to get that go-ahead goal for us in the second half — that was big and definitely a confidence booster for him.”

Even though there wasn’t a goal in the first half, Jackson dominated possession throughout and had multiple shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. The midfield winning 50-50s and creating opportunities allowed for a player like sophomore Aiden McMinn to apply plenty of pressure on Cape’s goalie senior Tad Couch.

Jackson has three more weeks left of the regular season as its next big matchup will be against another crosstown rival in Notre Dame (11-4-1) one week from today. The Bulldogs have won their last four games while not allowing a goal by shutting out St. Pius X (7-8) 2-0, Carbondale (Illinois) 7-0, Poplar Bluff (3-11) 6-0 and Fredericktown (4-9) 9-0.

“We just have to continue to look forward,” Coach Walton said. “It was a great win — enjoy it — but coming toward the end of the season, we have to focus on one game at a time.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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