Powered by the right leg of Nick Koback and a strong impenetrable defense, the Swanton boys soccer team broke open a close game by scoring four goals in the second half, three by Koback, and went on to defeat Delta, 5-1, in the opening game of the OHSAA Division III sectional soccer tournament on Tuesday at Krupitzer Field.
Koback, who also handles the place kicking duties for Swanton’s football team, scored the Dogs’ last three goals and squashed any thoughts the visiting Panthers had of pulling off the upset of the higher seeded Bulldogs.
Swanton jumped out to an early lead at the 34:22 mark of the first half when Tanner Callicotte blasted a shot toward the left side of the Delta goal. Panther keeper Logan Albring dove to his right and was able to slow the ball down, but it came off his hands and had enough momentum to trickle over the goal line for a 1-0 Bulldog advantage.
Despite the quick score, the game settled into a defensive battle for the rest of the half as both teams went up and down the field, creating opportunities but never being able to put anything on the board as the two goalies took turns making great saves.
“They came out like a house on fire which is exactly what we expected,” said Swanton coach Kris Krupitzer commenting on Delta’s early effort. “They knew they had nothing to lose. They came at us and took it to us that first half. We had to absorb quite a few punches.”
The second half, however, was a completely different story and it was clear from the beginning. Just 38 seconds in, Tanner Prentice doubled the Dogs’ lead when he found the back of the net to put Swanton up 2-0.
The Panthers recovered and began to pressure the Bulldog defense but could not get anything past Swanton keeper Tylor Prentice. And suddenly, the game turned into the Nick Koback show. Unlike his Friday night exploits where his kicks are designed to go above the goal post, Koback proved equally adept at scoring on kicks that travel under the goal post.
“It’s pretty tough but you got to keep working at it from one sport to the other,” explained Koback on how he manages to perform so well while trying to juggle the demanding work load of two sports in the same season. “It’s a big transition, but the kicking is similar and the coaches schedule practices around it.” Different ball, different target, but fortunately for the Bulldogs, same result.
With 30:45 left in the game Swanton upped its lead to 3-0 on Koback’s first goal. Eight minutes later he put another one into the net to give the Dogs a very comfortable 4-0 cushion. Late in the game, Koback sealed the victory with his third score for the hat trick and a 5-0 lead.
The Panthers managed to ruin the Bulldog shutout when senior William Cupp, playing in his final high school game, drove a shot into the top of the net to put the final score at 5-1.
“We didn’t give up. We played better as the (second) half wore on,” commented Delta coach Charlie Franklin. “We made some mental mistakes but we’re going to come back next year and improve some more.”
The post-game interview gave coach Krupitzer a chance to reflect on the victory and on his first year as a head coach. “It’s been more work than I thought it would be but it’s more fun,” he said. “To see these guys improve as players, as a team, as students and as young men, that’s the rewarding part.”
For their efforts, the Bulldogs get to travel to Archbold to face the NWOAL champion Blue Streaks on Saturday for the sectional title. The Streaks will be looking to avenge last year’s 1-0 double overtime loss to Swanton on the Bulldogs’ dramatic run to the regionals. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Bill O’Connell can be reached at [email protected]