By Nick Hampton
For Hilldale goalkeeper Michael Breckon, it was a great game as he turned away six tough Fort Gibson shots. But it’s the two that got away that he’ll probably remember.
Tigers sophomore Levi Ford got one shot past Breckon in each half as Fort Gibson defeated Hilldale 2-0 in the boys championship game of the Wagoner Invitational tournament Friday at W.L. Odom Field.
It was a game dominated by the No. 10 ranked Tigers (5-3) as they outshot Hilldale 17-5. But great defense and goal play by the Hornets kept the outcome in doubt until the last few minutes.
For Hilldale coach David Saunders, it was a tough welcome to the classic rivalry between the two schools.
“It’s a big rivalry, isn’t it, and I enjoyed it. It was a competitive game and I just told (Fort Gibson) coach (Todd) Friend, we’ll be ready for you when we meet you in district play,” said Saunders. “But congratulations to them. I think the better side won today.”
With the game scoreless in the first half, Ford took a free kick just outside the left side of the goal box and floated it towards the goal. Breckon went high and appeared to have it for a moment but as he came down, the ball got loose and went off of him and trickled into the net to make it a 1-0 Fort Gibson with 19:08 to play.
Down by a goal, Hilldale (5-3) came out a little more aggressive to start the second half, and while they made several runs at the goal, the Fort Gibson defense kept them from getting a good look. Then with just over three minutes to play, Ford struck again from almost the same place on the field as Breckon had the ball dribble away and into the net.
“Whenever it comes down to it and the team needs it, you just do what you’ve got to do,” said Ford about his goals. "(Breckon) did play a good game and if he hadn't saved all the good shots we had on goal, I think we would have had a lot more. He was tough in the back for them.”
Friend, noting that this was the Tigers’ fifth game of the week, was happy to get the win.
“I think our legs started getting a little heavy in the second half and I think we actually played better yesterday,” said Friend. “But I won’t take anything away from them. They had a good game plan and it took us awhile to figure it out before we found the back of the net.”
Summit Christian 3, Fort Gibson 1
Missing a key starter, the Lady Tigers struggled with players in different positions and fell to the Lady Eagles in the girl’s championship game.
With midfielder Brooke Benham absent for the day, the Lady Tigers (4-3) struggled in that part of the field trying to set things up for the strikers. And the Fort Gibson defense, which has been strong in the early part of the season, suffered as well according to Fort Gibson coach Jaime Snyder.
“I was frustrated with my defense which has been solid and consistent so far,” said Snyder. “They let me down a little bit. We lost our mark a couple of times and they made us pay for it. But when you score just one goal, you force your defense to play perfect.”
Jordan Raynor got the Lady Tigers on the board first with a goal off a free kick from 30 yards out in the first half. Summit Christian tied it a short time later, also off a free kick by Emma Foster. Jordan Langbartels got the other two Eagles’ goals on breakaways after the Fort Gibson defense lost its mark on her.
Despite the loss, Snyder thinks her girls are ready to begin district play.
“We’re where we want to be going into district play,” she said. “We’ve played in the wind, we’ve played in the rain, we’ve had shootouts-everything you want to put your team through. So they’ll know what to expect and how to react to adversity.”
In other tournament games, Wagoner’s boys clinched third place with a 3-2 win over Victory Christian, and Hilldale’s girls beat the Fort Gibson junior varsity 8-0, but lost to Grove 1-0 in a shootout.
Both Hilldale and Fort Gibson open district play on Tuesday as the Tigers will host Atoka while Hilldale travels to Poteau.