TAMPA – And up and down season took another turn down for Wharton, but the Wildcats still managed to earn a point, and retained a tie for first place in the Class 6A-District 8 standings as Alex Stickley’s goal gave the Wildcats a 2-2 tie against Alonso on Tuesday night.
Wharton (5-3-1, 4-2-1) came from behind twice, earning a point in the 69th minute as a long free kick by Khalil Marriott from the right was flicked on by Torey Dean to Cody Brown on the right of the penalty area. Brown’s shot took a deflection, Alonso goalkeeper Kenny Gilbert reacting well to parry, but the rebound came to Stickley who shot home from close range.
Stickley said he thought the Wildcats were lucky to pick up a point, but was pleased to have done so.
“I think we played pretty sloppy,” Stickley said, “but I’m proud of the guys for coming back and tying it up.”
Alonso (5-4-1, 2-3-1) created the better chances in the first half, Cody Profeta going close from 12 yards after Jesse Rivera’s shot from distance had been partially blocked. The Ravens took the lead in the 33rd minute as Nicolas Iriarte made a good run down the left, and his cross found Chase Fullman at the near post for a close-range finish.
Alonso coach Alan Turnquist said he was much happier with the energy his side had played with, after some lethargic recent performances.
“That’s what I was looking for,” Turnquist said. “We had a couple of lapses, should have made better decisions in the back, but I’m happy with our effort.”
Wharton answered six minutes into the second half as Juan Arango converted from the penalty spot after Dean was brought down in the penalty area. Dean then hit the post after the Ravens defense didn’t deal with a cross into the six-yard area, the rebound being sent wide. For the most part, though, the Wildcats were unable to play the possession game they are used to thanks in part to the high pressure Alonso put on their midfield and defense.
“We are a possession-style team, and we didn’t possess the ball well tonight,” Wharton coach Scott Ware said. “We couldn’t put few passes together, couldn’t control the tempo, couldn’t control the clock and get better opportunities. It’s all stuff we work on in practice, so that’s something we should be able to do.”
The Ravens regained the momentum, and retook the lead on the hour mark as a cross by Jonathan Thomas from the right found its way through to Hugo Ramos at the top of the penalty area. Ramos then flicked his right-footed shot into the top right corner of the net, giving Wharton goalkeeper Keenan Kushner no chance to save.
Kushner did make a critical save late, though, as he turned a volley from Iriarte over the crossbar to preserve the draw for the Wildcats.
Wharton is now tied with Plant on top of the 6A-8 standings, the Panthers earning a 7-0 victory against Brandon on Tuesday night. Ware thinks his players still needs to come together as a team if they are to make something of their season.
“Tonight was sloppy,” Ware said. “We had some discipline issues, we need to straighten that out and control the mind to control the field.”