PANAMA CITY BEACH — Trailing by two goals seemed to fuel Arnold’s competitive fire Monday night.
Austin Peffers scored a goal and added two assists, and the Marlins stormed back to defeat Rutherford 4-2 in a District 2-3A boys soccer game at the Mike Gavlak Sports Complex.
Arnold improved to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the district. The Rams’ record was unavailable.
Chase Cantrell provided the Marlins’ go-ahead goal in the 34th minute when he outhustled nearby defenders to a loose ball in front of the net and coerced it into the goal for a 3-2 lead at halftime. Peffers’ free kick skimmed off the wet grass in front of Rams goalkeeper Mohamed Aboulela and ricoheted to the left side of the goal for Cantrell.
The Marlins showed an ability to counter quickly and generate scoring opportunities with clever passes to streaking forwards running behind the Rutherford defense. Arnold’s first-year coach, Aaron Murphy, said he was mixing combinations of players.
The young Marlins, who play with just one senior and three juniors on the varsity roster, fell behind early as a scoreless tie quickly turned into a 2-0 lead for Rutherford. Rams forward Randall Menzel scored a pair of goals moments apart in the 14th and 17th minutes, respectively.
Menzel collected a well-placed pass from Matthew Baumgartner in Arnold’s 18-yard box, and he sneaked a shot under the body of hard-charging Marlin goalkeeper Trevor Jaquay for a 1-0 lead. He added another goal four minutes later with a rocket off his right foot to give Rutherford a short-lived 2-0 advantage.
Peffers finished off a breakaway opportunity by burying a shot in the back of the net in the 21st minute. Arnold evened the game at 2-2 five minutes later with a goal from Mason Sherman.
The Marlins sealed their victory when McKenzie Thomas when he was on the receiving end of a Peffers pass and scored Arnold’s final goal in the 74th minute.
“He’s a pivotal player for us in the middle because he’s so versatile,” Murphy said of Peffers.
Craig Ingram is serving in his first year as the coach at Rutherford, and he said his players are adjusting to his coaching style and what he is looking for on the field.
“They’re getting it,” he said. “It’s a building process.”