JANESVILLE

Janesville Craig’s boys soccer team had trouble keeping up with the defending state champions Tuesday night.

Jonathan Gamez had a hat trick to lead Verona to a 6-1 win over the Cougars in an alternate fall season match.

The Wildcats won the 2019 Division 1 state title and used a three-goal spurt in an eight-minute span of the second half to pull away from the Cougars.

“You play against quality competition, and they take advantage of your mistakes,” Craig coach Garrett McCabe said. “And that’s what happened tonight. We’re OK with mistakes happening, because we know they’re going to, but it’s what you do going forward to make up for them.

“But we just started (the season), and we’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do and where certain players need to be. Right now, we don’t have an identity. But like I said, it’s early, and we’ll find one.”

Verona struck first on Gamez’s goal at 24:25, but Craig responded just 28 seconds later when Kent Espinoza punched in a rebound to tie it at 1-1.

The Wildcats scored two more times before the half on Gamez’s second goal and Stanley Maradiaga’s goal when he snuck past a Craig defender and whistled a shot past Craig goalkeeper Reed Kelly.

Kelly played well and kept his team in the game thanks to two sprawling saves in the first half and two more in the second.

“We lost 11-1 the last time we played Verona and that can be really intimidating for guys that are coming back, but I didn’t see any of that tonight,” McCabe said. “Which is encouraging for us because they’re one of the best programs in the state. It was 3-1, and then they hit us with those three goals. We were right there until then.

“We’ve got really talented kids and really exceptional athletes, but now we have to come together as a team and figure out our identity.”

The game stayed at 3-1 until Brooks Luttinen took advantage of Craig’s failure to clear the defensive zone and scored at 77:16. Alex Klimm blasted a shot past Kelly at 83:43 when the Cougars once again had trouble clearing the ball, and Gamez notched his hat trick at 85:38.

Craig (0-2) hosts Sun Prairie on Thursday.

VERONA 6, CRAIG 1

Verona 3 3—6

Janesville Craig 1 0—1

First Half

V—Jonathan Gamez 24:25. C—Kent Espinoza 24:53. V—Gamez 30:17. V—Stanley Maradiaga 39:13.

Second Half

V—Brooks Luttinen 77:16. V—Alex Klimm 83:43. V—Gamez 85:38

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