BELLEVILLE — Ryan Green and the Belleville Henderson boys soccer team continued their role Tuesday as comeback kids this season, and once again at the expense of division rival Lyme.
In the first meeting in the first game of the year for both teams back in early September, the Panthers rallied in the second half to prevail after allowing the game’s first two goals by the Indians.
This time, Belleville Henderson trailed by a goal at halftime, but behind four goals from Green on the day, stormed back to defeat Lyme, 6-3, to take control in the Frontier League’s “D” Division.
“It’s a pretty good win, we started out very slow, but we picked it up,” Green said.
Green, a senior forward, scored two goals in each half, including back-to-back goals to open the second half and spark a four-goal surge for the Panthers, who improve to a perfect 10-0 on the season.
“This is nice, it’s almost a mimic of the first game when we were down 2-0 and came back,” Belleville Henderson coach Shawn Maloney said of the team, which is ranked No. 5 in the state in Class D. “Lyme’s a great team and you can’t let your guard down for one second against Lyme.”
The game was called with 13 minutes and 10 seconds remaining after a lightning delay nearing 30 minutes. With the storm closing in and darkness approaching, both coaches agreed to make the game official.
But earlier, the Indians (7-3) threw a scare into the Panthers, this time as junior Kyle Gaumes scored twice in the first half to lead 3-2, as he scored the tying goal in the 34th minute with sophomore Derrike Goutremout putting his team ahead with a tally in the 39th minute.
“We were a little flustered because of the first half, but I think we just came out better as a team,” Green said.
“I had a little motivational talk at halftime for my boys,” Maloney said. “They were playing good soccer, but I needed them to play great soccer. And they came out, took that and ran with it.”
Green quickly generated the tying goal only 1:35 into the second half as his corner kick curled untouched all the way into the far corner of the net.
“I don’t know how it went in,” Green said of his corner kick. “I didn’t really see it, but I’ll take it.”
Just four minutes later, Green finished off a pass from Maxim Hess to provide Belleville Henderson the lead for good at 4-3.
“He’s stepped up this year,” Maloney said of Green, who also converted on a penalty kick in the first half and has tallied a team-leading 17 goals this season. “Last year we had Brady Maloney, and now (Green’s) stepping up very well to fill his shoes. He’s good all around.”
Senior Brandon Bast followed with a goal, also four minutes later and with sophomore Kyle Moyer assisting, for a two-goal advantage. Junior Brayden Billman followed with an unassisted goal on a direct kick in the 59th minute for the three-goal margin.
“That was huge,” Green said of Bast’s goal. “That totally got us going and it shifted the momentum.”
“It was a tough one, that’s an understatement,” Lyme coach Rob Goutremout said of the game. “We started out well today, but they got us again.”
The Panthers clamped down defensively and only allowed four shots in the second half, including only one on goal.
“Our coach calls us a second-half team,” Panthers senior defender Garrett Gehrke said. “We kind of work harder in the second half, because in the first half we get all our mistakes out, usually. I guess we’re just a second-half team.”
The Panthers now lead the Indians by four points in the division, 20-16, with four regular-season games left for both teams.
Both goalies, Belleville Henderson sophomore Jeremy McGrath and Lyme junior Tyler Wilson, were credited with 13 saves.
With the win, Belleville Henderson took the next step toward winning the “D” Division regular-season title outright.
“It’s fabulous, 10-0 is fantastic,” Gehrke said. “Much better than last season, I’m so grateful that we’ve pushed this hard and we’ve come as far as we’ve done so far.”
Last year, the two teams shared the championship and Belleville Henderson went on to defeat Lyme in the division playoff title game.
“I think we’re looking pretty good, we’re working harder in practice and we’re playing pretty good,” Green said.
According to coach Goutremout, Lyme continues to be hit hard by injuries, as Riley O’Brien is out for the season with an MCL injury, and Trevor Weston left Tuesday’s game late in the first half with a knee injury.
“So you take him (Weston) out and I had to switch kids around,” Goutremout said. “It was a physical game and we were smaller than they were when we have those two kids out of the game. It was kind of like once the tide turned, it was over.”
Following their early season loss to the Panthers on Sept. 5, the Indians had won seven of their previous eight games, including four in a row heading into Tuesday.
“We just have to regroup as a team, we still have four games left until the playoffs,” Goutremout said. “I’m sure we’ll see them again.”