With arguably its best player on the sidelines, the Ankeny boys’ soccer team rallied for a huge road victory on Tuesday.
The sixth-ranked Hawks overcame a 2-1 deficit to beat No. 8 Johnston, 3-2, in a non-conference game. They played without junior Kolby Raineri, who was forced to sit out after receiving a red card during a win at Dowling Catholic on April 10.
“Our best player was suspended for the game, and I needed some other guys to step up,” said Ankeny coach Jordan Burns. “We had a lot of boys really step up for us, including Charlie Pritchard. He had a great game.”
Pritchard scored Ankeny’s first two goals, giving him a team-high eight goals on the season. Peter Gaspari added three assists, increasing his team-high total to seven.
Dayne Kajewski scored the game-winning goal, his third of the year, with about 11 minutes left to play. The Hawks then held off Johnston’s flurry of attacks the rest of the way to earn their sixth straight victory.
“Johnston was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us to try to tie the game,” said Burns, whose team improved its record to 6-1. “But, credit to the boys. We switched to a defensive mentality and were able to hold them off.”
Derrick Beckman and Erik Catus each had a goal for Johnston. The Dragons dropped to 3-2.
After Pritchard scored his first goal to give Ankeny a 1-0 lead, Johnston answered with a pair of goals and appeared to be in control of the game.
“We gave away some goals. We had some mental lapses,” Burns said. “To be honest, we were in a really bad slump and I didn’t think we were going to get out of it. But again, credit to the boys. They showed fantastic character to pull themselves back together and score two more goals. I learned a lot about my team from a mentality point of view, just having that winning mentality.”
Ankeny has already scored 27 goals in just seven games. The Hawks scored 30 in 19 games a year ago.
“I really am surprised by how quick it has jelled together,” said Burns, who is in his first season at Ankeny. “But the commitment and the buy-in of these guys has been tremendous. They deserve this (success).”