Boys soccer: Eagles edge Blue Demons on the pitch

Apr. 9—ALBIA — Theo Hugen had already proven just how quickly he could find the back of the net just four days earlier.

On Friday night, when Pella Christian returned to finish their match with Albia, the Eagle junior continued to make clockwork of the Blue Demon defense. Hugen scored three more goals in the 70 minutes played after the match resumed following last Monday's initial postponement due to weather, including a tiebreaking goal coming 21 seconds after Albia caught the Eagles at 2-2 and a goal in the final minute coming just 12 seconds as the Blue Demons cut a three-goal deficit down to one, putting away a thrilling 6-4 Pella Christian road win.

"It was a fight between both teams," Hugen said. "We knew after the first half that (Albia) was ready for us. I told my teammates we had to fight back. If we did, we'd have this game."

Hugen's fourth and final goal of the match came with just 40 seconds left, finally putting away a back-and-forth battle that saw Albia erase one-goal deficits in both halves. After giving up a goal on Monday just over one minute into the match on Hugen's first strike of the night, Albia returned to the field and fought back, ultimately scoring the tying goal in the 25th minute when Gavin Shaffer found Cason Noe for a strike from 15 yards out to even the match at 1-1.

"The guys were so competitive. We were able to get off to a much stronger start than we did on Monday," Albia head boys soccer coach Matt Johnson said. "We've got a lot of guys that play basketball. Soccer's not like basketball. It takes awhile to rebuild and break down a defense. That's what got us going. We moved the ball around and worked for our goals."

Pella Christian was able to regain the lead early in the second half as Ethan Van Arendonk was able to convert, rebounding a pair of strikes off the post in the 53rd minute. Once again, however, Albia fought back to tie the match as Conner Fisher finished off a breakaway chance to the goal in the 61st minute tying the match at 2-2.

"That shows that we have another gear we can get to," Johnson said. "There's another step we can take."

Hugen, however, would not let Albia stay even for long. Off the ensuing kickoff, Hugen dribbled up the sidelines and beat the Blue Demon defense up the field before sending in the tiebreaking goal past Jaxon Strickler to put Pella Christian back on top 3-2.

"I know I'm faster than most of the defenders," Hugen said. "I take full advantage of it. I know how much my team supports me. We try our best to work together, make the passes and work the ball through."

Hugen's goal ignited what seemed to be a game-clinching rally for Pella Christian. Camden Parker and Hugen both scored over the next nine minutes, giving the Eagles a 5-2 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the match.

"We just kept competing," Pella Christian head coach Mike Vander Molen said. "Albia kept coming at us. We knew we had to keep putting in goals to sneak out of here with the win. We just kept stringing passes together. They made a lot of adjustments and we tried to counter those adjustments."

The Eagles (3-1) seemed to have the match wrapped up, maintaining their three-goal lead into the final three minutes. The Blue Demons (2-1) were able to cut the deficit to 5-3 as Conner Renaud drew a foul in the box with 2:58 left, sending in a penalty kick to keep Albia breathing.

Dylan Renaud then gave Albia plenty of life, finding the back of the net on an attack with 52.8 seconds left off a pass from Lance Helm. One more attack would suddenly give the Blue Demons a chance to force the Eagles into overtime and extend a chance to remain unbeaten.

Hugen, however, ended those hopes off the very next kickoff. With less than a minute left, Albia pushed forward hoping to create an instant turnover and a chance to score the tying goal before time expired.

Instead, Hugen broke away down the field ahead of the Blue Demons. The fourth goal of the night for junior with 40 seconds remaining finally clinched the wild match.

"I don't think I've ever been a part of a high-scoring match that was this competitive," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how our boys react going forward."