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Eagles drop one to Cavaliers, 2-1

By Staff
Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 16, 2001
TYLER, Texas Johnson County sacrificed body and limb to beat Meridian Community College 2-1 here in the NJCAA Division I Men's National Soccer Tournament here at Pat Hartley Field on Thursday evening.
The loss ends Meridian's reign as defending national champions. The Eagles, now 17-3-2, fall into a consolation bracket game against Thursday's late game loser between Bryant &Stratton and Louisburg, N.C. today at 2 p.m.
Johnson County, Kan., improves to 18-3-3 and will meet the winner of the Bryant &Stratton-Louisburg game tonight at 6 p.m.
The Kansas club got its winning goal on a freakish play near the next with under nine minutes to play.
The Cavaliers were lined up to try a free kick after a foul on Meridian's Shaun Van Heerden. The kick came in front of the goal where Meridian goal-keeper Eric Stewart went up for the ball with Johnson County's Brian Wittenboro.
Stewart grabbed the ball but when he came down, his leg came right down on Wittenboro's leg. The ball dropped and in the scramble, Johnson County's Daniel Jirenga got possession and dribbled in a one-yarder for the goahead score with 8:42 left in the game.
Confusion, however, followed on the play as Wittenboro stayed down. Evidently, Stewart had broken Wittenboro's ankle when he came down.
Wittenboro was carted off. But his teammates were still bouyed by grabbing the lead from the defending champions.
Meridian was unable to mount a sustain attack to get a tying goal. There best chance came with about six minutes left but the shot was too high.
Johnson County pulled in their defense and the tired Eagles were unable to break through.
As for the go-ahead goal, Clements said it was a tough play to defend.
Johnson County Head Coach Fatai Ayaode was elated by his team's gutsy performance.
Meridian started off strong getting several early goal attempts. A shot went off high off the upper bar. McAilley then had a solid kick blocked by Johnson County goalie Richard Empson.
The Eagles finally got one in with 24:53 left in the first half. Van Heerden broke loose with the ball down the right side-line. He fired a cross-over pass that found Chris Beard about 10 yards from goal. Beard made the kick to put Meridian up 1-0.
Stewart would make a couple of key saves including a diving grab off a low kick by Pat Geraghty to keep the Eagles ahead. The half ended with Meridian leading 1-0.
It didn't take long for Johnson County to tie it up. Just two minutes into the second half, Joseph Krinock broke open following a pass by Geraghty. Krinock made the play, scoring the goal with 42:56 left tying the game at 1-1.
Meridian would have four shots on goal over the next 12 minutes. Shots by Sullivan, King and two by Trey Alexander were either caught, blocked or fell wide.
There would be five more missed opportunities during the next 10 minutes. In all, Meridian had 17 shots on goal, nine from the field and eight off corner kicks.
Johnson County got two goals off 10 shots at goal.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. E-mail him at or phone him at 693-1551, ext. 3235.