HANFORD — Tied in the final seconds of a back-and-forth match, Hanford West’s Forrest Thompson found the corner of the cage for the game-winning goal against rival Hanford on Thursday.
It was only his second goal of the night, but it helped the Huskies prevail 12-11 on the road in a non-league match and move to 3-0 on the season.
After 15 combined goals in the first half, only eight were scored in the second half, including two in the final quarter. Hanford was limited to only three second-half goals.
“We started off back-and-forth scoring a lot and then once we figured out how they were playing their offense we really just started clamping down on defense,” Hanford West coach Anthony Castellani said. “That’s what we need to do throughout the year.”
After multiple missed opportunities from both teams in the fourth quarter, Hanford’s Camden Hampshire — who scored a game-high seven goals — broke the drought on a lob from the left wing to tie the game 11-11 with 2:34 to go.
As time winded down, Thompson scored from the left wing on a lob with 25 seconds left. The Bullpups missed their final two shot attempts and dropped to 1-2 on the season.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities, easy goals … trying to force things that weren’t there just yet,” Hanford coach Anthony Souza said. “Beginning of the season, we got a lot of game left in us and I really think that we’re only just starting to crack it now.”
The Huskies came out strong taking a 3-1 lead, but Hampshire scored three consecutive goals to give the Bullpups a 4-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. Hampshire continued his groove into the second with two more goals to give the Bullpups a one-goal lead.
“I found the open man, I drew the foul, I got up and shot it,” Camden said. “At first I was open a lot more, then in the second half they were guarding me because they knew the performance I was doing.”
But Hanford West’s Aidan Apgar also came on strong in the quarter by scoring three goals and tying the game at 7-all. Hanford’s Marcos Leon scored on a lob to give his team an 8-7 lead at halftime.
“Definitely my arm,” Apgar said about scoring. “Because I have freakish arms.”
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Scoring slowed in the second half as both sides became more defensive. The Huskies trailed 10-8 with 5:40 left in the third, but goals by Thompson, Apgar and Colin Rowe gave them an 11-10 lead entering the fourth.
“Well a lot of it’s by chance, it could’ve gone either way,” Apgar, who scored a team-high six goals, said. “But it’s just our strive to win.”
Austin Dunn, Chase Waddell and Logan Flemming also scored for the Huskies. Cayden Smith scored three goals for the Bullpups.
The tight contest saw five lead changes and seven ties, while neither team ever led by more than two goals.
“This is the most stressful game of my life,” Apgar said. “I’ve never tried this hard.”
The Huskies are now off to their best start since 2016 when they started 4-0. The team continues to trend in the right direction after going 5-22 two years ago, 11-13 last season and now off to a perfect start.
“It’s really just time,” Castellani said. “We just got to let them grow over time and they’ll take off.
After losing five seniors, including three starters, from last year’s team, Souza said the new group is still learning how to play together and finish games. They lost two of their three top goal scorers, including Matthew Ross’ team-best 197 goals.
“We were rushing passes, we weren’t letting plays develop like they should’ve,” Souza said. “Their defense played well. They kind of caught on to our big guys and really pressed it out, however, we had a lot of missed opportunities. We got to be able to finish the game we haven’t been able to do that yet.
Hanford will take part in a tournament over the next two days and then face Sierra Pacific (0-2) in a road game on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Hanford West will face Monache (0-3-1) in a road game next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.