On Wednesday, October the fourth, the Manteo Redskins traveled to Hertford County to face off against the Perquimans Pirates in a conference rematch. In their first contest, hosted by Manteo, the game resulted in a 1-0 win for Manteo. The game was played in the front end of Hurricane Jose’s wind and rain. Manteo would look to send the message that they were indeed the much better team with a convincing win.
It was a beautiful evening for a match, and Perquimans plays on a lovely pitch that is almost as wide as it is long. Manteo would look to use the width of the pitch to exploit defenders in one on one situations, getting in behind the back line.
Manteo had a lot on the line to prove but seemed lacking in their first-half focus to do so. The game kicked off and both teams looked slow and stagnant all about the pitch. Manteo controlled possession for the most part but they were lacking in creativity and intensity in the final third to capitalize on their possessions. Manteo has become accustomed to scoring in the first two minutes, as they have done so the last four games, put their lethargic first half play negated continuing that trend.
Fifteen minutes into the first half, Manteo would get on the board first. Edwin Perez would win the ball back for the Redskins in the midfield and find Christian Barker on an inside-out combo ball back to Perez. Perez would find Eric Hernandez in the middle, and Hernandez would place a well-weighted ball through the Pirate backline for Randall Klotz. Klotz would win position with his speed, and hold the defender off with his strength. Klotz would then one touch the ball past the keeper for Manteo’s first goal.
It seemed Manteo was positioned to take control of the game now with the momentum from the goal, but they would continue a lack-luster first half performance. Perquimans kept fighting and were rewarded for their efforts after a Manteo defensive blunder. The Pirates would try and play a ball through the backline but Manteo intercepted it and sent a weak clearance out. A Pirate midfielder would take one touch to send a high looping ball back over the Manteo backline that landed in the top corner of the 18-yard box. Manteo failed to head the ball out, and as the ball settled nicely on the pitch and one Pirate attacker closed on the ball to win it, two Manteo defenders ran to challenge him, yet they both turned their backs upon the final challenge. This allowed the attacker one more touch through, and then he took a wide open shot and buried it. It was now tied up at 1-1 and Manteo only had themselves to blame.
Manteo would continue to dominate the run of play in the first half even though they were not playing their normal team soccer. The ball stagnated at times, players were not trusting others, and Manteo was seemingly tactically inept in their decision making. Regardless, Manteo still managed to put up two more goals in the first half.
The second goal from Manteo came from J Zafra as Edwin Perez would cut inside from the right wing to find Zafra atop the box. Zafra took a quick collecting touch with his left, setting up his right foot, and placed it past a horizontally extended keeper into the back of the net.
Just before the conclusion of the first half, Eric Hernandez would make it 3-1. Hernandez found himself with the ball at the top of the 18-yard box with only one defender in front of him, while the other Pirate defenders marked up the other attackers. Hernandez relished the one on one opportunity and made a quick shifting move to his left, and struck it with his left foot. It was a strike that you could tell was a goal as soon as it was hit as the ball was bent perfectly into the side netting, and the keeper stood frozen in the middle of the goal.
Coach Cleaver seemed pleased that half-time had finally come, and he would have a chance to regroup and digress their poor play and execution of their planned tactics.
To start the second half, Manteo kicked off and looked like the Manteo fans have come to expect this season. They moved the ball on the ground about the pitch with pace and with a purpose. They communicated, dropped the ball, switched the ball, and did not even let Perquimans touch the ball for several minutes.
It must have been hammered home during halftime to use the width of the pitch, and get in behind the defensive line before crossing or cutting in towards the goal. In the first half, Manteo was cutting in and attacking the backline with little success. In the second half, Manteo made a point to get in behind the line and make the Perquimans backline face their own goal, which is a position that no defender wants to be in. With the execution of that tactic, Manteo began to tally up the on-goal attempts.
The scoring in the second half would kick off with a pair of freshman. Eric Hernandez made a diagonal run to receive the ball wide on the right side. Hernandez took his defender off the dribble attacking the near post before playing a hard, low ball through the box. The ball would wind up towards the back-middle of the box, finding an awaiting Carter Calvio who struck it one time. Calvio caught the keeper mid-shift on the cross and placed it nicely past him for his first varsity goal.
Minutes later, it was a freshman to freshman duo adding to the lead. Yieffer Perez found himself all alone deep along the right wing, and sent a beautiful lofty ball to the back post, picking out an awaiting Noah Goetsch. Goetsch waited patiently for the ball, watched it all the way in, and headed the ball right back down to the ground. The ball landed on the goal line and passed under the outstretched arm of the keeper for Goetsch’s first goal.
Manteo continued to dominate the second half, winning every 50/50 challenge, sending in a deluge of dangerous crosses, and cracking shots from outside the box.
Klotz would have several shots on target, one of which was a lofty high ball dropping into the upper ninety of the goal, only to be saved by the keeper. Landon Taylor had a near miss when he had a crack from 25 yards out, sending a dipping ball that rung the crossbar.
Hernandez was the one to really set Manteo apart from Perquimans in the end by finishing up the game with a hattrick. For his second goal of the game, Hernandez would receive a wonderful ball from Sam Diaz just atop the 18-yard box. He collected with a brilliant touch, beat one defender, and then another to set his left-footed strike up. Hernandez buried the ball in the far post side netting once again.
Hernandez would score his third goal of the game to make the final score 7-1 in the last minute of play. Hernandez received the ball in the middle 30 yards out. He drew one defender a bit to the right just before cutting it back to the left, and with a quick speed burst, he split two defenders while making his way into the box. As the keeper and a third defender now came hard at him, he released the ball again with his left foot, sliding the ball cleanly on the ground in the far post side netting. This locked up an impressive left footed hattrick, that all were placed cleanly in the side netting, giving the keeper no chance on any of the three shots.
Manteo is now 7-0 in conference play and ranked 10th in the state for 1A classification.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, ” It was an extremely frustrating first half, despite being up 3-1 at the half. I hate to see us play down to competition because we are so much better than we showed that half. At halftime, I called every player out one by one and demanded more from them. We rehashed our tactical approach to the game and laid out very clear expectations. In the second half, the entire team came out more focused and energized and executed our game plan to a tee with great success. The ball moved about the pitch with precision, and with purpose. I was pleased with our second-half performance. It is the sign of a great team that regroups after a disappointing first-half performance and makes all the necessary changes in the second half. We will look to take care of Edenton on Monday, and set ourselves up for a conference championship.”