On the hot and humid evening of August 17th, Manteo kicked off its season against Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School. Bishop Sullivan is always a formidable opponent and has gotten the better of the Redskins the last two years. Manteo has been working hard all spring and summer to improve their game and make a run at a state title as they feel they fell just short last season. While the players focused on their skills and their fitness, the community focused on their facility. The Manteo Boosters Club provided new Euro-style box goals, the McOwen and Casey family helped provide dugouts alongside the bench sidelines that where built by Beau Barber’s shop class, and Alfie Wheeler and Jimmy Metzinger continue to keep the grounds in top condition.
Upon kick-off, Manteo struggled to find its touch at first and were not linking their passes together. Bishop Sullivan was able to control most of the possession in the first ten minutes, however, they did not earn a single attempt on goal for their effort. Manteo on the other end was able to test the Crusader keeper on multiple early attempts.
The first attempt came from a Redskin throw-in along the midfield. William Pendleton scooped up the ball quickly out of bounds to give it a long toss down the line for a streaking Noah Goetsch. Goetsch was over-thrown but pressed the defender hard, forcing a backwards pass to the Crusader’s center-back. Manteo’s striker, Joe Zafra, read the pass and won it before the defender could. Coming across the top of the box, fading to his right, Zafra took a shot on target but the keeper was able to catch it on the run as he had positioned himself well.
Manteo’s next attempt on goal came from a free kick on the left, top of the box, after Goetsch was taken down while threatening to penetrate the back-line. Eric Hernandez and Carter Calvio stood over the ball to talk it out. In the end, Hernandez would take the strike. It was struck hard and low, penetrating the crowd of defenders, but it was stopped by a diving keeper.
As the first half wore on, Manteo began to settle in and take control of possession by winning the 50/50 balls and being the more physical team. Half way through the first half, Ivey Midgett came in strong on a 50/50 challenge to win the ball for teammate, Landon Taylor, who then played a great ball down the right wing for a streaking Eric Hernandez. Hernandez muscled past the first defender as he cut inside, attacking the near post and splitting the remaining two defenders to sneak a low shot between the legs of a defender. The keeper laid out in full extension to save the shot off the line. Manteo was beginning to take all of the momentum and you could feel a goal was coming.
With twelve minutes remaining in the first half, defensive midfielder, Brandon Gonzalez-Martinez, came in hard on a physical challenge to break the ball away from the Crusader midfielder. Goetsch was able to win the ball back for Manteo, beating the first defender at the midfield line and then Manteo was off to the races. Goetsch dribbled down the right wing with a four verse two overload for Manteo. Goetsch played a low ball across to Zafra at the top of the six-yard box. Zafra took one touch on the ball, and then struck it low past the defender and the goalie for Manteo’s first goal.
Minutes later, Zafra looked for his second goal as Hernandez played a nice ball across for him into the box. Zafra got his head to the ball, and headed it down towards goal, but it went inches wide of the post. Manteo continued to pressure the Crusader back-line for the remainder of the half but would go into half time with a 1-0 lead.
Manteo did not let go of the momentum they gained in the first half, and took control of the game throughout the second half. The Redskins continued to be the more physical team and their fitness level began to provide another advantage over Bishop Sullivan.
Manteo’s second goal would come early in the second half as Hernandez received the ball out wide on the left and diced his way through multiple defenders before placing the ball past the keeper. The home-side continued to roll from there, utilizing overlaps out of the midfield and the back-line, controlling the tempo of the game, and snuffing out any attempt for Bishop Sullivan to break through the back-line.
Manteo would all but seal the deal with a third goal with ten minutes remaining in the game as Pendleton came hard along the left touchline to play a pass forward to Goetsch. Goetsch would began to dribble inside and drag multiple defenders as Hernandez overlapped along the outside. Goetsch laid the ball off back out wide for Hernandez who sized up his defender in the box, made a quick move back to the inside to provide space and the angle for a shot. The finish was a beauty as it sailed past the keeper’s outstretched arms and into the far-post top corner.
Manteo would loose their clean sheet with only one minute and thirty seconds left in the game as a deep shot from a Crusader midfielder was headed up by Manteo’s center-back, Sam Diaz. The ball popped up inside the box and fell right to the opposing striker. Manteo keeper, Trent Jones Jr., raced off his lined to punch the ball out of the air but fell just short of reaching it in time as the striker headed it into the goal. The game ended in a 3-1 result in favor of the home-side.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “I am pleased with our opening game this year. Once we settled in and starting playing our game, we were able to control the game and have our way with them. Our half-time adjustments were applied properly by the boys and it showed in our second half dominance. We were able to make a lot of positional switches throughout the game, keeping their defenders unfamiliar with our players, and a rotation of solid subs kept our side fresh. Our back-line held strong until the very end but they played well together given the short period of time they have had to build chemistry back there. Our boys are pumped and ready to take on First Flight!”