Spruce Mountain’s Gage Kneeland (16) heads the ball in the net for the first goal of the game in the first half as Monmouth goalie Bradley Neal tries to block Kneeland’s shot in a soccer game in Jay on Monday afternoon. The Mustangs won, 3-2.

JAY — When Wade Coulombe saw the ball right in front of him and Spruce Mountain’s goalie sprawled on the ground, the Monmouth Academy senior midfielder didn’t hesitate to take the shot.

Coulombe punched in the winning goal with 7:23 left to provide the undefeated Mustangs (9-0-1) with a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix (1-8) in a physical soccer game Monday, which saw yellow cards aplenty.

The shoving-and-pushing match was all part of the show, and tempers flared with all that jostling going on, but a focused Coulombe seemed to ignore it all when he scored the deciding and unassisted goal.

“(The goalie) was on the ground and I knew I probably had about maybe a foot to shoot it … and I was confident in myself taking the shot,” Coulombe said. “I think we should have really capitalized on a lot more opportunities. We should have beat them by a lot more than we did.

“We didn’t capitalize on our shots, but we controlled the game.”

But the rough-and-tumble game didn’t sit well with Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher.

“The last time we played them it was a physical game, too,” Fletcher said. “We are skilled. I don’t think they can match up with us. They try to play a physical soccer game and we had a boy break his leg last game and we are bitter.

“And once again, they didn’t play the ball. I think we got caught up in it and we weren’t focused on our game. We are fortunate to score three goals. We found a way to resolve and we won and were are ready to move on and take it from there.”

Before the Mustangs ended up scoring three unanswered goals late in the first half, the Phoenix held the upper hand and built a solid 2-0 lead.

“They play pretty physical, but for the most part, we go for the ball,” Spruce Mountain coach Kyle Sawyer said. “I see it as we tied a state championship team and we had the ball in their half with one player down.

“We played the cards that were dealt. We are making strides.”

Just three and a half minutes into the game, Gage Kneeland used his head and knocked in the first goal of the game, with Mason Shink earning the assist.

About 11 minutes later, the feisty Phoenix added a goal when Brady Walp took a Logan Howes feed and dropped it in the Monmouth net to give Spruce a 2-0 advantage.

But the Mustangs eventually caught on and found a way to tie the game at 2-2 before halftime.

Senior midfielder and captain Nick Dovinsky appeared to rally the troops when he scored on a Corey Armstrong assist with six minutes left in the half.

A minute later, Monmouth dropped another goal in net. Cody Michaud scored the tying goal with assistance from Ed Zuis.

A red card issued to the Phoenix forced them to play a man down. The Mustangs took advantage of the short-handed hosts in the second half, pelting resolute Spruce Mountain goalie Andrew Shaw with 24 shots on net. He made 21 saves.

“That’s one of the big things I have been pushing with them is that at the end of the game, we are still a team,” Sawyer said. “When we play like a team, we finish like a team, and when you keep that mentality, everyone keeps going strong and that is a life lesson that is going to keep going.

“(Shaw) takes it. He’s a just a phenomenal goalie. He just goes for the ball. He takes hits. He gets right back up. That’s player resilience right there.”

Spruce Mountain’s Jason Howes tries to get control of the ball in a soccer game in Jay on Monday afternoon. The Mustangs won, 3-2.

Spruce Mountain midfielder Landon Brochu (7) closes in as Monmouth Academy’s Gabe Martin (10) heads the ball in a soccer game in Jay on Monday afternoon. The Mustangs won, 3-2.

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