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Despite starting the season in a somewhat up-and-down fashion, the Albuquerque Academy Chargers were far more up than down Tuesday against Los Alamos.
The Chargers, one of the top teams in Class 4A, dominated the bulk of the first half against the homestanding Hilltoppers. The Hilltoppers got back into the game with a late first half-goal, but the Chargers would score midway through the second half to put the game away.
Los Alamos struggled to contain Academy’s main scoring threat, Andrew Stone, who had several breakaway chances throughout and garnered a lot of Los Alamos’ back third attention as Academy picked up a 3-1 victory at Sullivan Field.
Even though Los Alamos struggled throughout much of the first half and gave up an early goal to Stone, it tied the game and seemed to grab some momentum just before the break.
William Steinkamp picked up a rebound off a scorching, close-range shot from Cooper Christensen to knock it past Charger goalkeeper Joseph Pauza, knotting the score at 1-1.
But with only about a minute remaining in the first half, Academy was awarded a direct kick just outside the penalty box to the right of the goal.
Los Alamos put up a 5-man wall on the right side of the goal and Hilltopper goalkeeper Chris Parker lined up near the left post, but Charger midfielder Jaron Thompson thumped an outstanding curveball around the right side of the Hilltopper wall and bent in inside the right post to give his team the lead once again.
Academy would tack on the lone goal of the second half.
Neither team could forge much of an advantage in the second half and Los Alamos was able to generate only one good scoring chance on offense.
Los Alamos (5-4-1) is winless in its last four outings, having gone 0-2-1 this past weekend at the Academy Invitational. The offense has been quiet during that stretch, manufacturing just nine goals in the team’s previous six games.
For Academy (5-4), it was considered to be one of the teams to beat going into the 2012 season, but the consistency for which the Chargers have generally been known for has been lacking.
Along with Tuesday’s win over the Hilltoppers, Academy also downed a tough Sandia Prep squad and a very good Class 5A program in Sandia, but combined those with head-scratching losses to Albuquerque and Valley.
But the Chargers looked more like the state title contender that Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz predicted they’d be before the season.
Los Alamos would eventually slow down the Charger attack a bit — Brandon Hodges helped stabilize the Hilltoppers’ back line toward the end of the first half — but Academy would get off 12 shots to Los Alamos’ 9, including a 7-4 shot edge in the second half.
Parker finished with five saves.