The lights of Twin Oaks Park flickered on as Eagle fans crowded the sideline to support the Niceville High School boys soccer team on November 9th as they faced one of their biggest rivals, Gulf Breeze.
With both teams carrying rosters filled to the brim with talented players, the final score of the matchup was bound to be close.
The Eagles started the game in a 4-3-3 formation, meaning four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards.
One of the most popular formations in modern soccer, the 4-3-3 promotes the growth of an attack through the midfield while also providing support for the defense.
Nineteen minutes had passed since kickoff before Niceville scored their first goal of the game, courtesy of Niceville. The team’s top scorer last season, The Eagle’s Grant Wheeler found the back of the net from a beautiful assist by Keller Nelson. However, 3 minutes later, the Gulf Breeze dolphins returned with a strong attack, resulting in a goal by Brett Buttell, tying the game at 1-1. Niceville’s Adrian Pearson scored the last goal of the first half off of a corner kick, giving the Eagles a lead of 2-1 going into
Gulf Breeze came out strong after halftime, with Lukas Lsakson putting the ball to the back of the net during the 42nd minute. The Dolphins scored their third goal during the 56th minute, giving them a lead of 3-2. Niceville then “switched to a 3-5-2 [formation]…just to try and generate a little offense to get that last goal to tie [the game] up”, according to head coach Wes Nelson. The executive decision to switch the formation was successful, as Niceville’s Jake Ticknor scored the last goal of the game, bringing the final score to 3-3.
Next Thursday, the Eagles will travel to Pensacola to go head-to-head with one of last year’s Final Four teams, Booker T. Washington. When asked what he plans to do to prepare the team for the strong opponent ahead, Coach Nelson responded that the team will “work on maintaining possession and not panicking when [they] are under pressure.”