Towson High senior Kushal Giri scored a goal and added an assist during a two-minute span early in the second half to lead the host Generals (7-1) to a 3-0 win over Hereford (7-3) in boys soccer action on Thursday evening.
It was the second annual Men’s Cancer Awareness game and all donations and concession stand earnings will go to the Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Towson coach Randy Dase, who missed the game last year after having surgery for prostate cancer on Sept. 1, and is cancer-free now, had some advice for Giri.
“He told me if you just have a little bit of space, shoot the ball,” Giri said.
The play started with a free kick by senior co-captain James Thorne from 45 yards out that was sent into a sea of players from both teams wearing blue wristbands for cancer awareness.
“It was James that put the ball in and I got a touch on it, and Bryce [Vanik] just set it up for me,” said Giri, whose shot was initially saved by Hereford goalie Evan Barnard, but trickled behind him into the net.
On the second goal, with 34:45 left in the second half, Giri curled a perfect cross from 25 yards out to the far post and Nick Lewis headed it home.
“We’ve been doing that in training a lot and I knew he was going to get there,” said Giri, noting it’s the first time he’s ever had a goal and assist less than two minutes apart.
The final goal came very late in the second half when a long free kick by Nick Sickler was redirected into the goal by a defender’s head.
“I thought we were dominating most of the first half and we were neglecting to shoot, and so we told them at halftime, ‘You’ve got to shoot a little bit more and keep the domination up.’ ” said Dase,
after the scoreless first half that had few golden scoring chances for either team thanks to sturdy defense.
Towson’s defense was represented by the backline of Sickler, Kavish Shah, Diego Menegatti and Daniel Schuck.
“We’ve matured sooner than I thought and you’ve got to hand it to our defense in the back,” Dase said.
That back four had plenty of defensive help from Thorne, who played all 80 minutes.
“He just plays unbelievable, he’s just solid, he’s like a brick wall back there,” Dase said.
Thorne is a co-captain along with senior Thomas Lewis, who was constantly around the ball.
The win was the seventh straight for the Generals, after a season-opening loss to two-time defending champion Catonsville, but Dase wasn’t totally satisfied.
“I was proud of them, but as soon as we got to two, we shut down, but I wanted the odd digit,” Dase said.
“We dodged one bullet when the ball hit the post and our keeper [Caeden Fong], a freshman, had an unbelievable save when he went through the air.”
Hereford really stepped up the pressure midway through the second half.
It began with the Bulls best opportunity of the game — a shot that leaked wide from Nico Boggan after a cross from Austin Craig with 21:25 left in the second half.
Another dangerous cross by Jeremy Cain didn’t make a Hereford connection with 19:32 left.
Tim Carper had a shot on goal that was saved by Fong and with 9:10 left, Cain drilled one off the right post from the left side.
Fong’s best save came after a shot by Scott Middleton.
“This was a big win for us in the county and now we’ve got three more games in the county, with Owings Mills, Franklin and Dulaney,” Dase said. “I was impressed with Hereford. They were very feisty, very tough and their style was definitely dangerous because they like to bang it down the outside and use that speed up front, so we were worried about the counter.”
Hereford coach Adami Mizell’s squad had a 7-game winning streak before the week started, but a 2-0 loss to Perry Hall ended that and things didn’t get any better against Towson.
“We dug a hole that was too deep to climb out of and at the end we had a couple of chances and we hit the post and had chances like that, and in a game like this, you have to capitalize on them,” Mizell said. “We battled hard and we just got beat by a better team today.”
The coach saw positives, but most came after they trailed by two goals.
“I felt like, for the most part, we stayed the course and we did the things that were necessary to create the chances, but their defense was just good enough to bust us up,” Mizell said. “They were disrupting what we were doing and unfortunately, today, it didn’t happen for us.”
Leading scorers Nico Hillary and Gavin Schattall were held scoreless in both games.
“We needed to be much cleaner and sharper than we were tonight and when you’re not, that’s what happens,” Mizell said. ”They [Towson] are a good team. They are the best team in our division right now.”