Boys Soccer: Injury scare headlines home loss against Morris

Junior Alberto Casillas looks to dribble around Morris defender Cade Conner during the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer match against the Redskins on Wednesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Sophomore forward Orozco taken away in ambulance as Rochelle falls 5-2

ROCHELLE — Sophomore Kevin Orozco was taken off the field in an ambulance during the first half of the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team’s Interstate 8 Conference match against Morris on Wednesday. Fighting without one of their starting forwards for the remainder of the contest, the Hubs hung tough but were ultimately overwhelmed in a 5-2 home loss against the Redskins.

The injury occurred late in the first half with Morris holding a 1-0 advantage over Rochelle. A physical battle for possession resulted in a head-on collision that left Orozco down deep in the Rochelle defensive zone. As Orozco was taken away in an ambulance, the Hubs continued to battle into the second half, where the Redskins scored four consecutive goals to seal the win.

“I thought we went toe-to-toe with them during the first half,” coach Bobby Gardner said. “It really stunk to see Kevin go down but it was cool to see the guys rally over the last 11 minutes of the first half. We stayed in the match and even though they scored the first goal, I thought our guys were pretty focused. Morris has some really talented and fast players on their offensive line and they beat us a couple of times. I thought we had some opportunities on offense, but we needed to get a few more balls through on the ground and we couldn’t get to the ball in the air.”

The Redskins struck late in the first half, converting a corner kick into a goal during the 33rd minute after Orozco was taken off the field in the 29th minute. The Hubs had chances to find the equalizer early in the second half, but offside penalties and missed shots on goal prevented Rochelle from evening the score. Morris effectively clinched the conference win with a flurry of goals highlighted by back-to-back goals in the 67th and 68th minutes to command a 4-0 lead.

“Morris has continued to get better over the years and they had a couple really good players up top,” Gardner said. “We made some adjustments to try and contain them as much as we could, but we had players becoming exhausted and they were losing a step as the game went on. I’m proud of us for how we stayed in the game mentally because it could’ve gotten out of hand right away. We have to continue to work on our conditioning so we can last for the full 80 minutes.”

The Hubs showed signs of life near the end of the match, with junior Alberto Casillas cashing in an assist from freshman Alexis Nava for Rochelle’s first goal during the 77th minute. The Hubs immediately found another chance in the 78th minute, where sophomore Heilly Zepeda assisted senior Diego Salazar for a second goal that cut the Morris lead to two. But Morris snuffed the rally right away, scoring almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff to seal the victory.

Head coach Brad Male said after the match that Orozco has been released from the hospital and avoided serious injury. Rochelle (2-4, 0-2 Interstate 8) will travel for a nonconference match at Sterling on Thursday.