The North Lamar Panthers carried a seven-game winning streak into Friday night’s matchup against Princeton. Heading into the district opener, the Panthers knew they would be put to the test as Princeton came into the match undefeated and ranked number six in the state. Coach Aaron Welch knew that it would be “extremely tough, and the team would have to battle for 80 full minutes”. From the opening kick, all in attendance could see that this was going to be a very competitive match.
On a play that should probably be an ESPN Top-Ten feature, Victor Dorantes (9) scored the first goal of the night off of a free kick by Kyle Terry (4). As each minute passed the intensity of both teams increased with every ball contested and an increasing level of contact. Princeton tied the match at 1-1 with a goal 33 minutes into the first half. The Panthers took back the lead with just under three minutes left in the half when Hunter Love (2) made a header off of Andrew Exum’s (10) corner kick. NL went to halftime with a 2-1 advantage.
The action and intensity of the match continued to increase through the second half, which at times resembled a rugby match. After two yellow cards were handed out in the first half, the color changed to red in the second with at least one ejection. Early into the half, Princeton’s pressure paid off with a goal that tied the match 2-2. On this night, however, North Lamar was not going to be denied. With 20 minutes left in the game, Love scored his second goal of the night with Exum picking up his second assist as well.
With a 3-2 lead, the Panther defense took over. Nick West (1) was key to this victory with multiple saves, four of which were in one-on-one situations. (Note: This is a goalie’s worst nightmare) Coach Welch cited Nick’s play as well as the efforts of the defensive tandem of Kyle Terry (4), Cameron Edwards (5), Zach Routon (12), Garrett Douglas (17) and Ryan Cody (19) as outstanding against a set of very good Princeton strikers.
Coach Welch commented, “Big win on the road tonight. I’m extremely proud of the way we kept our composure when the game got heated. Each and every player deserves credit tonight because this was a great team victory.”
With the victory, North Lamar is 1-0 in district play (9-3-3 overall) and extended their win streak to eight games.
The team travels to Bonham on Tuesday night to face the Purple Warriors. Start time is at 7:15, following the North Lamar girls game at 5:30. The Panthers' district home opener is on Friday against crosstown rival Paris.