A major soccer showdown occurred on Thursday night at St. John's Jesuit's Lyden Field.
Seventh-ranked St. John's welcomed fourth-ranked Anthony Wayne for an early season showdown.
After a scoreless first half, AW senior co-captain and leading scorer Ben Conkin slipped a shot into the back of the net with just over 36 minutes remaining in the game to give the Generals a 1-0 road win over the Titans.
Conkin's ninth goal of the season came off an assist from senior co-captain J.J. Fortner, who delivered a near-perfect pass to AW's top centerfielder roughly 10 yards away from St. John's goal.
“It was a great ball,” Conkin said of the assist. “It was whipped into the post, and I was in front of the keeper and got to the ball and put it into the post.”
AW coach Brian Billings welcomed the opportunity for the Generals (5-1) to face another state-ranked team this early in the season. He credited his team with a solid showing.
“That was just a battle,” Billings said. “It was a game in which there were a bunch of guys just fighting it out for 80 minutes. That's the way it was all the way until the end, back and forth, back and forth.
“Two heavyweight boxers going at it. We're just happy to get out of here with the win and move on with our season.”
Both teams approached the clash knowing it would be the kind of test that would leave each team better for the experience regardless of the outcome.
“We have a really tough schedule and we've played some really good teams already,” Billings said. “For us, this is a marker for us to kind of test where we are as a group and what we can keep working on. They're a fantastic group team, and they're going to have a great year and we're likely to see them again.”
St. John's coach Tom Shook, who coached previously at AW, thought both teams played well and with plenty of effort.
Shook said the Titans had a breakdown on defense during the Generals’ scoring play. Yet, he was encouraged by how the Titans came together during their brief post-game huddle.
AW goalie Austin Kaminski recorded four saves. He didn't have many opportunities to protect the goal since the Generals dictated the action and kept the ball on St. John's half of the field for much of the contest.
Even though it was a nonconference encounter, Kaminski said a win over the Titans could go a long way for the Generals.
“We had confidence coming in this game, but it raises it one step higher,” Kaminski said.
The game's lone scorer shared similar thoughts about how the Generals approached the contest.
“We knew it was a must-win,” Conkin said. “It was a statement game.”