On Wednesday, September 5th, your Manteo Redskins traveled to Gates County to take on the Red Barrons. The game would commence the beginning of Albermarle Athletic Conference play. The Redskins were coming off the long Labor Day weekend, having four days off and then one practice before the game. With the long layover and the intense heat broaching near 100 degrees, the play from Manteo was nowhere near their top quality, especially in the first half.
Upon the kickoff, Manteo controlled the ball early and often, yet they struggled to link together a multitude of passes. Manteo could not find their first touch, and the Red Barrons were fired up and making hard physical challenges every chance they got. Manteo seemed surprised by Gates County’s high energy and physical play and it was effective for the Red Barrons for the first half.
Manteo dominated the midfield play but failed to find the creativity and touch to break down the final defensive third for an early opening goal. The twenty-minute water break came in the first half and the score was still tied at nil to nil.
During the break, Manteo was able to collectively organize their thoughts on their play and refocus.
With fifteen minutes remaining in the first half, Manteo would finally get on the scoreboard after dominating the run of play. Upon winning the ball in the midfield, Noach Goetsch would play a through ball down the left side of the pitch for the striker, Joe Zafra. The outside back would win the ball originally and tried to clear it out. Zafra pressed hard on the ball and the clearance was blocked by Zafra, falling nicely for him. Zafra took a touch on the ball past the defender towards goal. The defender slid hard from behind but Zafra was able to elude the tackle as he approached the near post at a 25-degree angle. The keeper held to his line, and Zafra blasted it past him from four yards out.
Manteo entered halftime with the scoreline at 1 to nil. The Redskins found the shade and discussed the sick feeling in their gut after playing a poor half.
The focus was certainly heightened to start the second half as it took less than one minute to score their second goal. After Manteo was awarded a throw-in right after the kick-off, Ryan McOwen launched a long throw-in out of the midfield to Landon Taylor down the sideline. Taylor shielded the defender, picked his head up and cross the ball into the box to Zafra. Zafra had positioned himself well to find plenty of space atop the six-yard box and he one-touched the cross into the back of the net before the keeper could react. Zafra, normally one to celebrate his goals, calmly turned and walked back to his half. The lack of celebration was telling as to how Manteo felt about their opponent, their poor play, and their station in the game.
The second goal right out of the gate was deflating for the Red Barrons, but they continued to play hard and physical. The home side’s one shot on target came off a free-kick just outside the right corner of the box. Manteo keeper, Trent Jones Jr., had no problem scooping it up. Manteo started to threaten on set pieces as well as Gates tallied up the fouls and corners given up. Yeifer Perez almost gave Manteo their third goal as he made a late run up on a corner kick from Calvio. Calvio played him on his near post run and Perez made good contact with his head, but got under it too much and sent it over the crossbar.
Manteo would make good on the next corner kick as Calvio would find Andrew Hayman attacking the ball on the far post. As the ball sailed in, Hayman slid in front of his defender and headed the ball down onto the goal-line and into the back of the net.
Manteo continued to possess the ball while Gates opted to play direct on most any opportunity given on the ball. The Redskins kept the opposing keeper busy with shots from Taylor, Hernandez-Ramirez, Pendleton, Perez, Hayman, and Calvio. Zafra would cement his first hat-trick of the season with fifteen minutes left to play in the game. The scoring play was started off as Sam Diaz made an overlapping run along the right side to play a ball across the box. No one was home on the first ball and it skipped through to the far side. Goetsch tracked it down and dropped it back to Calvio. Calvio was pressed from behind and had one defender in front. He drew wide left with the ball, beating the defender with pace, then turned the corner to play a pass back across the box. Zafra was well positioned again. Zafra took a collecting touch on the ball and then placed it in the side netting with the outside of his right foot as the keeper shifted along the goal line.
Manteo was up by a score of 4-0 and still rolling with substitutes all over the field. The Redskins were happy to have center-back, Jose Velasco, back on the field for a bit as it was his first tour of duty this season as he has been recovering from a knee injury.
Gates County was able to forego the shutout with two minutes remaining on the clock as Manteo played out a goal-kick that was not controlled. The Barrons quickly found one of their big targets up front as Manteo tried to reposition quickly. The attacker drew the ball into the penalty box and was taken down by Pendleton. The referee immediately pointed to the spot as he should of. The attacker took the penalty kick for Gates, and placed it just past the outstretched hand of the keeper, Steven Ortega. The Redskins gave up the shutout but went home with the win by the score of 4-1.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “It was not the prettiest game we have ever played, but a win is a win and we will take it. I tried to warn our boys about looking past opponents and how every team will be fired up to try and beat the defending champs, but they did not initially buy it. I think the message is now received and they are refocused on all of our goals. I look forward to finishing this long away game stretch in Hatteras Friday night and finally coming home to play in Manteo on Monday against the Bruins. We will give our fans a lot to cheer out!”