You couldn't have faulted Judge Memorial's boys soccer team for feeling worried when star midfielder Charlie Brennan hobbled off inside the first 10 minutes against Waterford with a knee problem.
But the fifth-ranked Bulldogs still had senior Jake Troy, and in the end, that proved to be enough.
With Troy pulling the strings in midfield by himself, Judge hardly missed a beat. The tall and physical senior also got forward himself to score two goals, and the Bulldogs emerged with a 4-2 win over Waterford on Wednesday.
"We're lucky to have Jake Troy," said coach Kelly Terrill afterward. "When Charlie goes down, we've got a player in Jake Troy that can step in."
The difference Wednesday for Judge was its ability to respond to both of Waterford's goals and to be dominant in the air.
George Hoffman capped outstanding early Judge pressure by heading home a cross from Troy in the 7th minute.
Waterford striker Jon Orr combined with Matt Duke on a fantastic free kick to level the score at 1-1 in the 25th minute, but Troy scored twice — once on a header and once on a penalty kick — before halftime to help the Bulldogs resume control.
And after Orr scored again to pull Waterford to within a goal midway through the second half, Alex Bennion scored two minutes later to seal Judge's victory.
"We talk about that all the time — responding," said Terrill. "We want to respond, whether it's an initial goal whether it's an equalizer, you need to respond. And it's how you respond to the adversity of that momentum of that other team to even it out."
The Bulldogs responded against Waterford in part because they were able to spray the ball into dangerous wide positions.
"We were just looking for the corners," said Troy. "That's what we've been working on is just spreading out and working on the outside."
That's exactly what Judge did. The Bulldogs got pretty good service from their outside players once they got into those positions, and there were players waiting to head balls when they arrived inside the penalty box.
"We're strong in the air," said Terrill. "We've got some big kids in there. There was a little pushing going on, but eventually we got a few from the air."