Crusaders edge Hornets, 3-2

Helias’ Nathan Mercurio (left) shoots the ball through the legs of Fulton’s Caleb Lee for the only goal in the first half of Tuesday’s game at the 179 Soccer Park.

Helias’ Nathan Mercurio (left) shoots the ball through the legs of Fulton’s Caleb Lee for the only goal in the first half of Tuesday’s game at the 179 Soccer Park. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

The only game in town turned into a pretty good one.

The Helias Crusaders opened the soccer season with four straight 2-0 wins to earn a spot in the Class 2 state rankings.

Cushy victories are fine, but a team needs to learn how to deal with pressure.

The Crusaders were tested Tuesday night. They passed, beating the Fulton Hornets 3-2 at the 179 Soccer Park.

“We had some pressure on us and that’s a good thing,” Helias coach Chuck Register said. “We need to be a little more battle-tested. It was good to see what kind of team we have when things aren’t necessarily perfect.”

Starting with the conditions. While other outdoor contests were called off due to rain Tuesday night, Register was hesitant to cancel the game.

“We need to learn how to play in these conditions,” he said.

Helias took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. Nathan Mercurio picked up the ball down the left side and found the opposite corner of the net on the ground for the score.

The Crusaders made it 2-0 seven minutes into the second half on a shot off the left foot of Dominic Salamone. It was his third goal of the season.

“We haven’t seen that left foot, even in practice,” Register said. “That was a good goal.”

The hopes of another 2-0 victory went by the wayside about six minutes later when Kevin Wallace of the Hornets scored on a penalty kick.

Helias regained its two-goal lead midway through the half thanks to a nifty score by Braden Remmert. The score was set up by a good pass from Mercurio.

“(Remmert) played a heck of a game,” Register said.

Tanner Steffen of Fulton made things interesting with 18 minutes left when the freshman scored to cut Helias’ lead to 3-2.

“We didn’t have the mindset we had in our first games,” Register said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best game and we have to be ready to match their intensity level.”

Helias finished with a whopping 33-7 edge in total shots, including an 18-5 bulge in those on net.

“We had plenty of chances, we need to convert on more of those,” Register said. “The beginning of the season is new and exciting, now it’s time to realize it’s a long season and we need to be emotionally ready.”

Helias (5-0, ranked No. 6 in Class 2) is back action at home Thursday against Hannibal. The JV game will start at 5 p.m., with the varsity contest to follow around 6:45 p.m.

Fulton is now 3-3 on the season.

In Tuesday’s JV game, Helias improved to 3-4-1 with a 6-0 victory against Fulton.

Zach Simon, Ethan Twehus, Sam Heckart, Grant Stokes, Jack Schrimpf and Ben Mitan scored for the Crusaders.

Assists were credited to the Crusaders’ Stephen Hirsch, John Kerr, Heckart and Anthony Fairchild.

Accompanying photo:

Helias’ Nathan Mercurio and Fulton’s Caleb Lee

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