Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 18, 2012

Princeton uses Fix to fight past visiting RCB

PRINCETON — Princeton freshman Colton Fix helped his team out of a fix on Friday afternoon, scoring twice in the last 2:03 of the first half to spark the Tigers to a 4-2 win over Robert C. Byrd High School in the boys soccer season debut.

Fix, after his first varsity game, said, “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but once I got a couple of shots on goal, I settled down. Then they sat me down and I settled down even more.”

Several Tigers sat down as the coaching staff tried to assume control of the action. The Eagles from Clarksburg provided got off to an aggressive start, winning balls with their speed despite being lighter than the Princeton starters.

Senior co-captain Austin Smith said, “We weren’t expecting them to come out like that. It was a surprise, so once we saw that, we had to adjust ... .”

Princeton head coach Steve Bailey said, “We just had to settle down. We weren’t in the rhythm at the beginning, and we had to change the complexion of the game a little bit, get a little more speed in.”

Smith said, “I think a lot of people had pre-game jitters from last season. Since we got Steve back and last year wasn’t our best season ... I’d say we just had the jitters just coming out.

“After we got the lead, I think, they [the jitters] kind of cleared out and we started playing more as a team. It was just good to get a win on the first game and get started out on a positive note.”

Fix said, “It was a pretty big win for the team and for the community.”

RCB struck for the first goal only 3:36 into the contest on a charge down the middle of the field by Jeremy Bell, who got both of the Eagles’ goals. About 10 minutes later, Fix had a chance for the tie from 19 yards out but was wide right.

Tahj Sho-Johnson provided the equalizer with about 19 minutes left in the first half. He bided his time among a crowd in the keeper’s box, and his body was practically horizontal when he bounced the ball off the left post for the score.

As the two-minute mark approached, Sho-Johnson showed his superb ball-handling skills on the left wing, then rocketed the ball to Fix for a header that gave Princeton its lead.

Fix said, “I just knew Tahj was going to make plays happen, and he would connect with me with a pass.”

Bailey said, “We looked at what was going on, and we felt like we were going to score. We missed a lot of easy shots early, too. [We] shouldn’t have been having to wait that long. We missed four or five easy shots, and it was just, again, not being settled down.”

On the next exchange, Fix got possession again and quickly drove to an open patch of grass, sliding the ball to the left post past goalkeeper Dante Speas for a 3-1 halftime lead.

Bailey said, “Colton Fix is just going to be a great player someday, if he continues to improve and get better and keep a good attitude.”

Eagles coach Todd Kiger said, “We made a couple of little mistakes, and against a team like Princeton if you make a couple of little mistakes, especially down around the box, you’re usually going to pay for it.”

Fix was well-marked in the second half, but Princeton was concentrating on defense for most of the period, doing a much better job of tackling the ball. Among the standouts were senior Tyler Richards and junior Chance Shrewsbury.

Smith said, “Once we got down, we kept trying, and got that lead, and everybody’s heads came up, and we started playing more as a team ... After we got the couple of goals, the momentum changed. The whole team, everybody’s head came up.”

Bell brought the Eagles within 3-2 with 27 minutes left in the match when he broke open and sent a ball arcing above the hands of freshman Princeton goalkeeper Tanner Neeley.

Neeley made seven saves and cleanly handled most balls struck his way, spinning and dodging from RCB attackers.

Bailey said, “Neeley did alright. He’s still learning to come out when he needs to. ... He made some mistakes, but he’s young. He hadn’t played in goal in a couple of seasons.”

The final tally came with 15:04 left, when Sho-Johnson again fed the ball into the middle and freshman Daniel Harman skipped it low across the goal out of a crowd.

Sho-Johnson had one goal, one assist, and one heaping of praise from the Robert C. Byrd coach.

“Holy cow,” Kiger said. “And I had a freshman over there on him. I thought he did as good as he could against him.”

Princeton had 10 shots on goal to RCB’s two.

Kiger said, “We have maybe three guys on this team that have played together before. We only have two seniors on this team.”

He said he had four quality players on Friday who have not yet had enough practices in to be eligible to play varsity games. “They would have matched up, size-wise, a little better with this team,” he said.

“Our goal for the boys team, being that we’re so young and inexperienced, we want to get better, every half, every game. I thought we did.”

“The second half, we came out and we defended a little better. They did a great job out there. And that’s a tough team we played.”

Today at 1 p.m., the Tigers continue their five-game home stand to begin the season, hosting Hurricane in a Mountain State Athletic Conference match.

Bailey said, “We didn’t play very well today, but we’ve got a big game [Saturday] with Hurricane, and that’s a conference game. So we really were shooting toward that. That kind of played into people’s minds, I think, a little bit.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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