Coming off of a pair of disappointing losses, a matchup with archrival Carmel turned out to be exactly what the Center Grove boys soccer team needed.
Senior goalie Jacob Cooley helped to hold off an early assault by the visitors, and a second-half penalty kick by senior Ben DeRose held up as the Class 3A No. 13 Trojans topped the 11th-ranked Greyhounds 1-0 Thursday.
“The past few games, we’ve had a slow start,” Cooley said, “so today we just knew we had to bring the intensity.”
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Carmel (1-4, 0-2 MIC) was in clear control early, putting a good deal of pressure on Cooley and the Center Grove back line. The Trojans, though, started to gain momentum midway through the first half and managed to create a handful of dangerous chances — the best coming when an Alec Prime header off a Luke Boha corner kick slid just over the crossbar with about 6:40 to go before the break.
“(Carmel) definitely had the advantage in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but some of that was on us,” Center Grove coach Jameson McLaughlin said. “(But) they fought, they worked and got over it.”
The Trojans (4-2, 1-1) carried their momentum into the second half, generating a shot off a corner kick less than a minute in and following up with a couple of other good scoring opportunities before finally breaking through after junior Jackson Neal was taken down inside the box along the right end line with 24:47 remaining.
DeRose took the penalty kick and tucked it low inside the left post, beating Carmel keeper Andres Pagan-Marrero.
“Ben missed one at Perry (Meridian),” McLaughlin said, “so for him to step up and get that was good. He needed that.”
So did the rest of the Trojans, who are trying to climb out of the hole they put themselves in by losing their conference opener at Lawrence Central on Tuesday.
“We lost one in the MIC,” Cooley said, “so we know we need to win all six of these (remaining) games.”
One down, five to go.