Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
For the better part of Tuesday’s match with Jacksonville Northside, it was Beddingfield High that conducted itself as the representative of the soccer-rich 3-A Coastal Conference, and not vice versa.
The Bruins of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference jumped out to a 3-0 first-half lead, and only a penalty kick called in the closing seconds of the first half allowed the Monarchs to get into halftime with a goal.
But by the end of the match, Beddingfield was hanging on for dear life. Northside pulled a second goal back with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining, and with 7 seconds to go, the Bruins’ Almaqaleh Bashir pulled down a Monarchs attacker.
That left Zac Roelloffzen to take the free kick from approximately 20 yards away, but the kick slammed into Beddingfield senior Edwards Garcia as part of the wall, allowing the Bruins to cap their final preparation for EPC play with a 3-2 victory.
Sophomore Apolinar Fuentes scored twice for Beddingfield (4-2-2) and assisted on the other tally to sophomore Ezequias Martinez in the first half.
“Especially early on, we actually worked the ball and had good passes,” Beddingfield head coach Mark Aldrich said. “I thought we moved the ball quickly. We didn’t hold it. We had some great crosses and finished some of those — we didn’t rely on dribbling to create anything.”
However, when Beddingfield did have the ball at its feet, it consistently found ways to put the Monarchs defense under stress in the first half. Northside (4-5-1), which agreed to the contest with the Bruins in the spring looking to travel just about anywhere for an opponent, struggled to connect passes and watched Beddingfield assault its net for 13 shots in the opening half. Five of those were on frame, while Northside didn’t press senior keeper Bryan Rico into a single save in the first 40 minutes.
“The possession in the first half was the best I think we’ve had in a game yet,” Aldrich said. “We were passing to feet, we kept our space and there was enough time. The defense wasn’t close enough to either one of us. So we were able to have quick play, and it really relaxed us.”
Fuentes had two quality opportunities early, missing a volley over the crossbar off a pass from sophomore John Beccerrill in the 2nd minute and coming up short on a wide-open net in the 17th.
However, on his third chance, Fuentes didn’t miss. He took a throw-in from junior Jesus Mendoza and scurried upfield, poking the ball past the keeper for a 1-0 Bruins cushion 19 minutes in.
Beddingfield added to its first-half advantage as it continued to get the better of first-half play. In the 35th minute, junior Jimmy Mendez found Fuentes on a long ball, allowing him to dribble several yards forward and put it away.
Just over three minutes later, Beddingfield executed the give-and-go in textbook fashion. Beccerrill and Fuentes worked a two-man game at the left edge of the penalty area, leaving Fuentes with possession. But instead of attacking the goal for a would-be hat trick, Fuentes spotted an unmarked Martinez, who poked it home at the far post for a 3-0 Beddingfield lead.
“This one felt amazing,” Fuentes said. “We have a lot of confidence now. We communicate better now, we pass the ball and we’re stronger than other games before.”
In the closing seconds of the first half, the Bruins were whistled for a pushing foul in the penalty box. Therefore, with no time remaining, Northside’s Alex Ibanez slammed the penalty kick past Rico, reducing Beddingfield’s lead to 3-1 at halftime.
The Monarchs began developing more cohesive attacks over the final 16 minutes, but weren’t rewarded until Roelloffzen buried a long shot past Rico with 3 minutes, 50 seconds to go — a shot Northside head coach Craig Cook begged him not to take from the bench until it went in.
“We just didn’t have any heart and no discipline,” Cook said. “That’s kind of what were fighting right now, that’s the battle. Can we find consistency, can we find our lines, can we find our shape? Individual mistakes cost us in the first half, and that’s what happens sometimes.”
Beddingfield gave up one final counter in the closing seconds that caused Bashir to foul, but Garcia was on the spot to turn away the Roelloffzen free kick. Aldrich cited a member of Beddingfield’s defensive third attempting to get a fourth goal instead of dropping back on defense that helped allow the counter to develop. In goal, Rico had four saves for the Bruins — all in the second half. The Bruins gave up one goal in the run of play thanks to the back line of senior Noe Mendoza, Mendez and sophomore Leonardo Mendoza-Abarca.
“That’s what you want from the senior,” Aldrich said of Garcia. “He’s a senior, he’s a captain, he anchors our back line. We rely on him for a lot of things.”
Beddingfield kicks off EPC play at home against defending league champion North Johnston on Thursday.
“That’s what we were looking for,” Aldrich said of facing the Monarchs. “A team that’s got some size, that has some structure and knows what they’re doing. That way we don’t get taken advantage of on something simple that we didn’t practice against. That’s why I was willing to play this team right before North Johnston.”
And also to star in a role reversal as a Coastal Conference side for the day.