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LAND O’LAKES — Land O’Lakes coach Mark Pearson had one message for his team at halftime Monday of the Gators’ home match against River Ridge:
The Gators controlled possession throughout the first half and had a number of opportunities to score against the Royal Knights but could manage only one first-half goal. Leading 1-0 at the break, Pearson instructed his team to keep firing at River Ridge’s Jerod Linville and test the senior goalkeeper.
The Gators dutifully obliged.
Land O’Lakes peppered Linville with 12 shots after halftime and scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half to post a convincing 6-0 victory and stay unbeaten.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’re not getting points for possession. We need to go out early and get some goals,’ ” Pearson said. “They did that. … That set the pace for the rest of the game.”
In the 43rd minute, the Gators’ Miguel Laliberte was tripped just inside the box. Laliberte took the penalty kick and slotted it home for a 2-0 lead.
Nicholas Kempton made it 3-0 two minutes later when he gathered a loose ball within range of the goal and sent a knuckleball that caromed off the post and in.
With firm control of the game, Land O’Lakes (10-0) continued its scoring blitz in the second half. Justin Lyles latched onto a cross at the back post and sent a shot that was knocked in by a River Ridge defender but was going in anyway.
Joshua Davis, who scored the Gators’ lone first-half goal in the 35th minute, got a second goal as he crept along the back post and one-timed a loose ball past Linville with 18 minutes remaining.
Davis recorded a hat trick five minutes later, picking out a spot in the top right corner of the goal and accurately placing a shot into the net from 12 yards away for his 15th goal of the season.
“Our coach was pretty adamant about us going into this game hard, playing the ball fast and taking shots from around the 18,” Davis said.
After starting the season 9-0, River Ridge has dropped its past two games.
Land O’Lakes held the Royal Knights without a shot on goal. The Gators’ defense has allowed just one goal this season, that coming in the season opener.
“Our guys in the back have been fantastic,” Pearson said.