STREATOR —The opening moments of Streator's nonconference match against Bartonville Limestone on Wednesday afternoon were a quick glimpse of what was to come for the Bulldogs and freshman forward Jack Starkey.
Starkey gave his club the lead just 30 seconds in and later added two more tallies to record the hat trick, helping the hosts to a 4-2 victory over the Rockets.
"I had a hat trick in a JV game earlier in the year, but this was my first one on varsity," said Starkey. "Our pregame talk from coach (Jim) Muntz really had us ready to go. He talked to us about as a team not being selfish with the ball and making the extra pass. I think everyone did a great job of doing that today."
The Bulldogs, coming off a tough 1-0 Interstate Eight Conference loss to Manteno on Monday, changed the scoreboard in the blink of an eye.
From the opening kick, senior midfielder Blaine Parcher found a streaking Starkey down the left side of the pitch, and the youngster blasted a 20-yard shot past Limestone keeper Noah Schultz. Streator extended its advantage in the 25th minute, starting with Parcher's lead pass into the top of the penalty box, which senior Brian Vazquez was able to chip over Schultz to a wide-open Davey Rashid. The Bulldogs freshman tapped it into the open net to make it 2-0, and that score stood until halftime.
"The last two games have been a little more fast-paced than we've had so far this season, and I think we have done a better job sharing the ball," said junior defender Carter Pierce. "Scoring early today was a huge confidence booster for us. We were strong as a backline of getting the ball to the midfielders today. They did get a couple past us, but overall I think we played another solid game."
Streator (7-5) made it a three-goal contest with exactly 20 minutes to play when junior Tommy Kress and sophomore Damian Simmons set up Parcher for an 18-yard shot. The blast deflected off a Rockets defender, but right to the foot of Starkey, who calmly tucked his second goal of the match into the low-right corner of the cage.
Limestone broke the whitewash with Aragorn Adams scoring off a helper by Josh Bautista at the 16:41 mark to make it 3-1. However, it took just 10 seconds for the Bulldogs to get the score back, as off the restart senior defender Nate Carby found Starkey on a great lead pass, and the freshman chipped the ball over Schultz and into the net for his third tally of the contest.
Limestone ended the day's scoring with under a minute to play on Connor Spirrison's goal off a Carter Sanders assist.
Streator keeper Blake Rowe, who made three point-blank saves late in the match against Manteno, posted two saves as the Bulldogs outshot Limestone 26-7 overall and 10-4 in on-target chances.
"We really carried how well we played in (Tuesday's) game into today," Muntz said. "We talked about coming out playing strong as we had the last match and a half for the first 10 minutes, and getting that first goal early really set the tone. Earlier in the season we were making mistakes and opponents were taking advantage of those, but today, we were the team capitalizing on our opponent's mistakes.
"This was a really good team win."