COPPERAS COVE — The frigid temperatures sweeping across Central Texas did nothing to slow the hot play of Mohamed Balde. The Ellison Eagles’ junior scored two goals in Friday night’s 4-2 victory against Copperas Cove — his second consecutive game with multiple goals.
“On both goals I was just in the right place — I try to use my size as an advantage when I get in front of the goal,” Balde said. “(The scores) are really more about my teammates being aggressive and me cleaning it up.”
The Eagles (10-4-1, 4-2 8-5A) started the match strong, controlling the ball and keeping it in Cove’s zone for the majority of the first half. It wasn’t till there was nine minutes left that the Eagles struck.
Ellison senior Ryan Stuckey kicked the ball off a Dawgs player and it ricocheted to Balde, who deposited the ball into the goal with the instep of his left foot for a 1-0 lead. Six minutes later, Stuckey made the score 2-0 when he knocked the ball in from in front of the net.
“Our focus was to keep the ball in their zone and to stay aggressive,” Ellison coach Niles Dunnells said. “Every time we come to Cove we expect a physical match — we got that tonight.”
Indeed. There were five yellow cards and one red card issued during the match — with Cove’s Malik Montegue getting the lone red.
“There weren’t any bad calls from the officials, both teams were just playing physical and aggressive,” Dunnells said.
Cove (4-5-1, 2-4) scratched back into the game with two second-half goals from senior Anthony Galick but it was too late.
“My guys came out the second half and played aggressive, like I asked them to, and they played better for the last 20 minutes,” Cove coach Michael Epley said. “Everyone saw how good they played against a very good Ellison team and now we are expected to perform like that every minute.”
Dunnells was pleased with his player’s team-first mentality — a mind-set that allowed the Eagles to dictate the pace of the game. Several times during the match Ellison ball-handlers looked for the extra pass as opposed to taking a low-percentage shot.
“We pride ourselves on being a team — not one player is more important,” Dunnells said. “Tonight it was Mohamed but another night it could be Stuckey or Nathan (Diederich).”
Diederich did add a goal. The junior scored on a free kick that just barely tipped off Cove’s Spencer Belle’s hand. The goal made the score 4-1 before Galick added his second goal at the six-minute mark.