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Howard boys soccer heats up offensively in shutout win over Long Reach

Having already lost four county games by a single goal this fall, Howard came out on Tuesday against Long Reach and left nothing to chance.

The Lions got a pair of goals on set pieces from Ivan Chikhale in the first half, and then Gavin Boyer added another score early in the second, as Howard cruised to a 3-0 victory at home against the Lightning.

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"We've played with everybody and outshot most of the teams we've played, but just haven't been able to put it in the back of the net consistently. So tonight it was nice to be able to finish and get back on pace," said Howard coach Nils Schroder, whose squad was coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to Reservoir last Thursday. "As we look toward getting ready for the playoffs, games like this are definitely big in terms of getting our heads right."

After an initial push from Long Reach (2-6, 4-7) that saw Chris Flowers generate a point-blank chance in the first five minutes that sailed just wide right, the game was all Howard (3-4-1, 3-4-1).

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The Lions controlled possession and more than doubled up the Lightning in terms of corner kicks and shots on goal.

Howard got its first score in the 13th minute, as Chikhale set up for a free kick roughly 10 yards outside the box and fired it home into the right side of the net.

The second goal, six minutes later, was nearly identical as Chikhale again took a free kick at the top of the box and this time finished into the left side of the goal past a diving Long Reach goalie Jonathan Antes (6 saves).

"I've always had pretty good strikes, but the last week I have really been practicing them and it's nice to see it pay off," Chikhale said. "The first one (to the right) is where I practice, but the second one I thought the goalie would be cheating a little bit so I went the other way."

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The two goals for Chikhale, which gave Howard a 2-0 lead heading into halftime, were his first of the season. And, as Schroder pointed out afterward, it's finding scoring production from unexpected sources to take some pressure off the team's go-to-offensive guys Boyer and Jordan Griggs that will be key to the team's success going forward.

"Jordan and Gavin, we kind of snuck up on some people with them early in the season, so now as everyone is focusing on them it's up to some other guys to step up and take advantage," Schroder said. "Today was a great example of that with Ivan and I definitely feel like we have several guys that are capable on that end."

Boyer ended up getting into the scoring act less than five minutes out of intermission. Taking a feed from Tyler Schmidt on the left side of the box, he finished a left-footed shot into the side of the net.

The rest of the way, goalie CJ Bowen (2 saves) and the rest of Howard's defense locked things down to secure the shutout.

Despite sitting a game below .500 at the moment, the Lions are remaining positive with the idea that there's still time to build momentum for a playoff run.

"We've been really close, but sometimes we forget to work as a team and it's cost us. Today we really pulled through and hopefully we can continue to stay strong for the rest of the season," Chikhale said. "We know that we are a really good team … it's just a matter of playing together."

On the other side, Long Reach is simply looking for confidence over the final two weeks of the regular season. Playing without star midfielder Josh Fawole, the team has had to move some things around of late.

"Heading into playoffs, it's just trying to get these guys to start believing they can hold up against these teams and score some goals against them," Long Reach coach John Horner said. "We have some star players that are definitely capable, but we need some of the other guys to start contributing now as we've had to change some things up recently. We've played well against a lot of teams, now we've just got to finish."

Howard 3, Long Reach 0

Goals: Ho – Chikhale 2, Boyer.

Assist: Ho – Schmidt.

Saves: Ho – Bowen 2; LR – Antes 6.

Half: 2-0 Ho.

Other scores:

Reservoir 2, Oakland Mills 1

Goals: Re – Alfaro, Harris; OM – N/A.

Assists: Re – Gueye 2.

Saves: Re – Dachao 2; OM – Bhylet 6.

River Hill 2, Hammond 0

Goals: RH – Turney, Faderin.

Assists: RH – Testoff 2.

Saves: RH – Potts 1; Ha – N/A.

Atholton 3, Marriotts Ridge 2 OT

Goals: A – Frascarella, Royalty, Johnson; MR – Klementsen, Farabaugh.

Assists: A – Royalty, Johnson.

Saves: A – Bathras 3, Choi 4; MR – Dryja 8.

Wilde Lake 2, Mt. Hebron 2

Goals: WL – Bonsu, Rollin; MH – Linsenmeyer, Yacynych.

Assists: WL – Cybyk; MH - Hedges, Palin.

Saves: WL – Riley 10; MH – N/A.

Centennial 1, Glenelg 0

Michael Merkey scored the game's only goal with 15 minutes remaining in the second half to improve the Eagles to 5-5 on the season.

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