GLEN DALE - When you are trying to turn a program around sometimes even losses can come with small victories.
John Marshall boys' soccer coach Brian Noble watched his team dodge some early bullets Saturday morning, and fall behind 3-0, before eventually dropping a season-opening 5-1 decision to visiting Oak Glen, while showing progress along the way.
Sure, it could have been worse as the debuting Golden Bears had numerous shots sail to either side of the goal or high, but the Monarchs defense also did a fine job of helping junior keeper Collin Stipetich, especially in the second half.
First-year Oak Glen coach Aaron Bennett was looking to celebrate early as his team dominated play and control possession for the initial 17 minutes of play. However, the Bears had a goal waved off due to an offsides call just a minute in and had another go off the post a few minutes later.
"I'll take that offsides call anytime as long as the kids are being aggressive towards the goal," Bennett said.
The visitors finally did get the ball into net at 26:26 of the first half on a pretty crossing pass from Devin Polen to senior Travis Bolner, who buried the shot into the corner for a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later Polen took care of things himself, knocking one past Stipetich, on a shot that also glanced off a Monarchs defenders foot at 22:24.
Oak Glen closed the half with a Cullen Bennett goal, on a loose ball in the box, to push the count to 3-0 at the break.
While John Marshall appeared to approach the second half determined, it was still the Golden Bears who found the net first, just 6:45 into the second half when Eric Oliver's boot from 20 yards out sailed over Stipetich's head and high into the corner of the net.
It took most of the contest, but the Monarchs did finally dent the scoreboard, with 7:42 to play, on a cross from senior Tyler Neehouse to junior Austin Litman to make it a 4-1 match.
Oliver's second goal of the game, and half, from Addison Sayre completed the scoring with just more than 3 minutes to play.
"I thought we did an outstanding job on defense," Bennett said. "Our captains rotated in the back real well and did a very good job overall. We also put some shots in the air, and came close on a few that we didn't get.
"John Marshall has some real good kids and I wish them luck, I really hope that they keep on pushing and continue to turn things around.
"This is a real nice win for us, especially for a first-year coach to get a win in the first game of the year."
John Marshall, meanwhile, may have been dealt the loss, but Noble was able to come away feeling good about a few things he witnessed.
"We tried to shift the defense around a little to get a look at a few difference formations, and I think we got some ideas," Noble said. "But we still need to generate some more offense, and I think that will come around when we get everyone on the field.
"Unfortunately, we were missing a few kids (Saturday), but so was Oak Glen so that is not an excuse. Overall, I am very happy with the effort, but not the result."