On Wednesday, November 8th, the Manteo Redskins hosted the Voyager Academy Vikings in a third-round state playoff game on a wet and windy evening. The Vikings had breezed through the first two rounds with 6-0 margins of victory, and the Redskins held off Woods Charter to win by a score of 1-0 in the second round. On paper, it looked to be a difficult game for the Redskins, and it would prove to be just that. However, Manteo has been playing inspired soccer as of late, fearing no opponent, and their physical, passionate play would again play a pivotal role in the game’s outcome.
Upon kickoff, the rain had let up, but the pitch remained slick from the constant on and off rains throughout the day. Manteo was fired up from the start, again, beginning the game at a feverous pace. Manteo would look to strike first and early as Eric Hernandez would receive the ball in the midfield along the right side, and dribbled at pace diagonally into the center of the pitch, beating one defender, and then drawing the attention of five Vikings defenders upon reaching the top of the box. As Hernandez entered the space that striker, Randall Klotz, had previously occupied, he peeled off on a diagonal run to the right side of the 18-yard box. Hernandez laid the ball off to Klotz as he was being surrounded by defenders. As Klotz made his run for the ball in the box, the Vikings keeper came sprinting off his line to win the 50/50 challenge. Both players went hard for the ball, colliding, and in the end, it was the keeper who came up with a big early save.
The first ten minutes of the game was mostly played in the midfield as both team’s tenacious defense made it difficult for either to maintain possession long enough to build up and effective attack on goal. However, Manteo would open the game up nearing the end of the first ten minutes of the first half. A bouncing long ball sent by Voyager was snuffed out by Manteo’s center back, Jose Velasco, as he sent a high ball back across the midfield line. A Voyager defender struggle with the trap on the ball out of the air and Hernandez was there to knock the ball to the ground and forward for the bursting run being made on the left wing by J Zafra. Zafra found plenty of space to dribble down the wing as their outside midfielder was pulled up, and the Vikings outside right back made an early slide tackle just outside the 18-yard box that Zafra easily made a touch around as he entered the box. The Vikings center back was left in a two on one situation, upon which he had to decide to either pick up the ball or negate the pass to Klotz in the middle of the box. Zafra was given plenty of space as he drew deeper in the box, and he struck it with his left foot, sailing into the upper-ninety near post, just past the outstretched arm of the keeper. Manteo was ecstatic to find themselves up early and to have Zafra back on the pitch making an impact.
The game would only open up and intensify after the first goal. Voyager Academy would look to play their speedy striker through on a diagonal ball sent past the back line. Manteo’s Sam Diaz, had the inside track to the through ball, but the speed of #1 allowed him to win the ball. Diaz did a great job of pushing him out wide, allowing time for the center defensive midfielder, Brandon Gonzalez-Martinez, to make a recovery run to help out. The two defenders closed on the striker, forcing a shot at a difficult, tight angle, of which Velasco was there to block with his body. The ball rebounded out, only to have another Vikings player send the ball well over the goal, out of bounds for a goal kick.
Manteo would counter the Vikings attack with a solid attempt on goal minutes later after winning possession in the midfield, and playing it out wide right to Hernandez. Hernandez spun on two defenders and drove the end line. He then sent a low, hard cross into the middle of the six-yard box to Klotz, but the keeper was there to make a touch and nullify Klotz’s attempt on goal.
Manteo’s next best attempt on goal would come off a corner kick in the middle of the first half. Hernandez drove the corner across the box to find the feet of Klotz at the back post, but Klotz was unable to get a clean touch on the ball and a Vikings defender looked to clear the ball out of the box, only to have Zafra there to block the clearance. The ball fell back to the same defender, who looked to clear it again, but Zafra closed the gap and made an attempt on the ball as well. As both players struck the ball, it deflected across the front of the goal, back out wide to Hernandez on the edge of the six-yard box. Hernandez struck it low and hard first time to pump it back in for a cross. The Vikings keeper was there again to make the save as he first corralled it with his legs and then fell upon the ball to cover it up just inches from the goal-line.
Nearing the end of the first half, Manteo’s Zafra would commit and unnecessary foul along the midfield sideline on Voyager’s striker as the ball was going out of bounds. Zafra would receive a card for the illegal contact and gave up a set piece to the Vikings. Manteo held the 18-yard line on the free kick, and the Viking’s player sent the ball up and over to the far post. The Manteo defense along the far post did not keep up with their marked man, and Voyager’s midfielder found himself all alone to head the ball into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Begining the second half, it seemed to again be Manteo’s mission to win the first ten minutes of second-half play. The Redskins almost accomplished this in the first few minutes of the second half as Klotz received a throw-in from William Pendleton, upon which he flicked the ball over his marking defender, and ran it down, holding the defender off with a strong shoulder to shoulder challenge. Klotz then sent a cross in from the left wing. The cross bounced in front of the goal, just outside of the six-yard box, and both Hernandez and Edwin Perez where there to make an attempt. It was Perez in the end who would strike it, however, leaning back on the strike, he would send it sailing over the goal to no avail.
Manteo would capitalize and take back momentum five minutes later as Landon Taylor won a ball that Voyager attempted to pass out of the backfield. The ball bounced forward, and then back to Perez, who looked to play Klotz through the backline. The ball got ahead of Klotz and the Viking’s defender looked to clear it out, however, Klotz blocked the clearance and knocked it forward to Taylor making a run through the box. Taylor was able to get one touch on the ball, sending it just underneath the diving Viking’s keeper. The ball rolled into the back of the net as Taylor rolled in the air, up and over the keeper. Manteo found themselves back up on top but knew that there was a lot of soccer left to play.
Throughout the remainder of the half, Manteo’s defense held strong and continued to deny most all of Voyager’s attempts on goal, with the help of the crossbar, as the Vikings were unlucky to strike the crossbar three different times throughout the second half.
Manteo remained hungry for their third goal to help put the game away, and it almost came shortly after their second as Hernandez sent a beautiful early cross in from the right wing that found Klotz streaking past two defenders to receive the ball in the box. The keeper came out and a full speed and off-balance Klotz looked to get a final touch on the ball, but could only get a slight touch on the ball with the outside of his foot. The keeper made a great save with one hand, arm extended, as he lay out on the ground.
Midway through the second half, it would be Zafra again to come through for the Redskins with their third goal of the game. A Viking’s defender would attempt to pass forward by Zafra, along the left wing near midfield. Zafra blocked the pass and knocked it forward past the defender. Zafra dribbled the ball down the left flank with only the Viking’s center back left to defend. Zafra drew inward towards the near post as much as possible, until the defender closed the space and forced him to the corner of the six-yard box. The keeper stepped up, cutting off the near post option, and Zafra struck the ball on the ground towards the far post and it found its way past the outstretched arm of the keeper and into the far-post side-netting.
The crowd erupted on the sidelines as Manteo was now up by a score of 3-1. The Redskins repeated the “it’s 0-0 scoreline” mantra to each other to remind one another there was still ample time on the clock, and it would take everything they had to hold off the Vikings for another 20 minutes.
In the last 20 minutes of the game, Manteo would have a handful of attempts on goal, but it was the away team that dominated the run of play for the remaining time. The Manteo defense and keeper, Trent Jones Jr. would come up big with stop after stop, but it was poor marking along the far post that allowed Voyager back in the game. As Voyager built up an attack in their offensive third, the ball popped out wide, deep in the 18-yard box. The Viking’s striker played a nice cross to the far post, and Manteo’s defense had drawn too far over in their defensive shift, leaving the Vikings midfielder all alone to play a simple volley in for their second goal.
With time winding down, and Voyager Academy sending numbers forward in an effort to tie the game up, Manteo parked the bus to hold off the Vikings. With less than a minute on the clock, Voyager received a free kick outside the right corner of the 18-yard box, after a Manteo hand-ball. Manteo put five players in the wall, and everyone else marked up along the line. The Viking’s set-piece taker struck it hard, but right into the wall, and the ball bounced out of bounds for a Vikings corner kick. As the Vikings attempted to run the ball down for a quick corner, the referee turned to check the official game clock on the scoreboard, eyed the clock down to zero seconds, and blew the whistle before the corner kick could be taken. The jubilant Redskins rushed up the field to celebrate after the final whistle and they were met at midfield by their home fans rushing the field to celebrate.
Manteo will host Raleigh Charter in the fourth round of state playoffs, Saturday, November 11th, at 6pm.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “This is another great win for us. Our boys are playing with so much passion, belief, and physicality, we continue to will our way to the victory. Our fan support these last two games have been prodigious, as they have become our 12th man on the pitch. Their support and spirt has inspired our players, and rattled the other teams. Voyager Academy is a very good team, and played their hearts out as well, and in the end, may have been unlucky. We look forward to taking on another tough oppenent on Saturday in the fourth round.”