DIXON – The Oregon Hawks took advantage of their opportunities in Wednesday’s Big Northern Conference game against Dixon, and it paid off in a 2-1 victory at Sauk Valley Community College.
Miley Smith scored 52 seconds into the game, then after the Dukes controlled the start of the second half and scored the equalizer, Ethan Schafer scored off a corner kick with 18:31 remaining to lift the Hawks (8-4-2, 4-0 BNC) to the win.
Schafer converted the corner kick off the foot of Cruz Hernandez, and found the lower left-hand corner of the net.
“It went right by some players, and it was a right-place, right-time moment. I got it right in the corner,” Schafer said. “We had controlled the game right at the beginning, then the rest of that [first] half and the start of the second, they had controlled it. So it was really nice to take advantage of our chance.”
Smith gave Oregon the lead less than a minute into the game, as the ball ended up in the Dixon half right off the opening kickoff. Smith was one of a few players right in front of the goal, and a loose ball bounced its way right to him, and he cashed it in.
“Most of the time, I’m just at the top. It was see the ball, go to the ball, just pressure as hard as I can at the beginning,” Smith said. “I just went to the ball, and a lot of times it will pop out, and then you’re just there. The eyes get big, and you just think ‘Go get it, kick the ball.’
“I didn’t think we’d score that quickly, but I just rushed them, followed the ball, and it worked out.”
After the initial shell shock wore off, the Dukes (5-6, 2-2 BNC) settled in and started playing on Oregon’s end a little more. After halftime, the time of possession was even more pronounced in Dixon’s favor, and they capitalized when Landon Juckel scored with 26:25 left in the game.
The ball was deep in Oregon’s end, then it got passed back to Damien Beck, who launched a perfect pass right up the middle of the field to Juckel, who toed it past Oregon keeper Gavin Morrow.
“That’s just good kicking, I guess. I was surprised by it being right on my foot. Luckily I was there and we scored the goal. It was a great pass,” Juckel said. “The first half was pretty bad, so we had a talk at halftime about communication and connecting. So we did that in the second half, did more passing and scored a goal.”
But six minutes later, on their first shot in the second half, the Hawks retook the lead on Schafer’s goal, then held off a late Dixon push to come away with the win.
Both Smith and Schafer credited the other’s goal as the key point in the game.
“Miley’s goal was exactly what we needed to set the tone,” Schafer said. “First time in eight years that we beat Dixon, so that was really huge to get that quick start.”
“Ethan’s goal changed the game,” Smith said. “We got the momentum back, and we just kept going.”
As for the Dukes, coach Josh Brigl was happy with the changes they made at halftime, but a bit frustrated they couldn’t pull out a win.
Dixon moved several players around for the second half, taking Robbie Ramirez off the back line and Walker Tilton out of the middle and moving them both to the outside, and switched up the central midfield to give freshman Jayvian Herwig a bigger role.
“We were just trying to connect passes, and we started to find that connectivity,” Brigl said. “The first 22 minutes [of the second half], we really controlled action. And then we gave up a set-piece goal that we just watched, basically. That really spoiled the momentum for us; the last 10 minutes, we picked it back up again, but it was too late. We made the right second-half adjustments, but one moment where you just lose some focus and that’s the game.”
Oregon held an 8-3 advantage in shots in the first half, including 6-1 on goal. But Dixon turned the tables after halftime, outshooting the Hawks 7-3 in the second half; both teams had two shots on goal. Morrow made a pair of saves, and Dukes keeper Rex Blackburn made five of his six saves in the first half.
“We did everything well in the second half,” Juckel said, “but unfortunately we lost. We’ll get it next time.”