For the better part of two months, Catholic High soccer’s Matthew Morales sat on the sideline watching his team play without him.
As a senior captain, Morales maintained an optimistic spirit for his teammates while a sprained MCL healed. But inside, the energy and desire to be back on the field was building.
For him, Tuesday night was a long time coming.
Morales wasn’t the hero in Catholic’s 4-0 win against Walker, but his first-half goal was the relief he needed in his first full game back.
“I was just ready to get out there and getting that goal just capped it off well,” Morales said. “It was a long time, but it feels good to be back.”
Catholic needed a strong win to open district play after surviving one of the state’s toughest schedules with a 8-6-1 record, if for no reason but to show what it’s capable of at full strength.
Along with Morales, fellow senior Dylan Thompson also returned to the field Tuesday after missing all but a few minutes of the season with an upper leg injury.
And just like Morales, Thompson found his connection with the Bears early when he made a well-timed run onto a Michael Focht corner kick to head the ball past the Wildcats goalkeeper in the 24th minute.
“The biggest thing for them is to just build confidence,” said Catholic coach Josh McReynolds. “I’m really happy for those guys to have them back.”
Catholic maintained control of play for the majority of the night as the defense kept Walker (9-5) from making any serious threats on goal.
The Bears outshot the Wildcats 32-2 on the night, including 18-1 in the first half.
Walker didn’t have its first shot until the 28th minute and didn’t put a single shot on frame all game. Catholic, on the other hand, put an impressive 59 percent of its tries between the posts.
But just because Catholic had plenty of opportunities all night doesn’t mean coach Josh McReynolds was necessarily pleased with his team’s finishing.
“I would’ve loved to see us finish more of those chances off,” McReynolds said. “From a confidence standpoint, that would’ve been really good. But the good thing to take away was that we were creating those chances.”
On top of Focht playing the ball that welcomed Thompson back to the field, the senior also provided the score that proved to be the eventual game winner — even if it did come in only the seventh minute.
Catholic jumped on the scoreboard early when Focht sent a penalty kick up the middle of the net after an early handball by Walker.
Later in the half, Focht sent a through ball over the top of Walker’s back line and directly into the path of Bobby Lee who proceeded to chip the ball past Walker goalkeeper Brennan McGowan.
Despite the high-scoring affair McGowan posted 17 saves Tuesday night, which Walker coach Delos Turner called one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats.
“After we gave up a couple of goals, I was worried he might get down on himself or get down on the team, but honestly, he kind of stepped up there in the second half and decided he wasn’t going to let anymore goals in,” Turner said.