Manteo wrapped up the regular season on the 24th day of October when the Hatteras Hurricanes blew into town. Both teams had just won their respective conferences and were looking to go out on a win heading into the state playoffs. In their previous encounter back in September, Manteo defeated Hatteras by a score of 5-0. Despite the scoreline, Hatteras is no category one hurricane this year. They have several good players layered throughout their formation and are one of the most physical teams Manteo has faced all year.
The rematch would prove to be another difficult game and an even more physical contest that likely left both sides with quite a few bruises.
It was senior night for the Redskins, although not a lot of changes would need to be made to the starting line up, as Manteo is certainly senior heavy this year. Eight of the nine seniors are regular starters for the team. Bradys Zavala would be inserted into the left wing position to make his first start of the season.
Upon the kickoff, Manteo looked to take early control but they struggled to maintain consistent possession as they are so accustomed to. The Hurricanes physical play looked to bump the Redskins off the ball and throw off their first touch. The strategy was highly effective for the first ten minutes as Manteo readjusted to the physical style of play. Manteo’s holding midfielder, Sam Diaz, was the first on the home side to reciprocate the physical style of play and the others followed suit. Diaz played a brilliant game in the midfield, limiting the Hurricane’s time and space on the ball to get an attack going. Diaz used his body to shield and protect balls, went hard for the 50/50 balls in the air, and made a deluge of well-timed physical tackles.
Manteo’s first great attempt on goal came off a long throw-in from Ryan McOwen. McOwen launched the ball deep into the box from the right sideline. The ball fell right to Erik Hernandez inside the six-yard box. Hernandez brought it down nicely and turned to face the goal for a shot. He was a bit off balance on his turn and it limited his quality on the shot, as it was hit right at the keeper five yards away.
Hernandez would make it count on his next attempt through beautiful combination play that began with Manteo’s right back, Yeifer Perez. Perez kicked the play off after receiving a switch about the backline, and then quickly made an attacking diagonal run into the center of the field. As he dribbled from the right into the center, drawing the attention of the central defenders, both Taylor and Hernandez were on the move ahead of the ball. Taylor was making a crossing route in front of the ball into the top of the 18-yard box. Hernandez was making a parallel run to the ball. Perez played Taylor on the crossing route and he quickly flicked it back to Hernandez on the counter-crossing route. The backline was left bewildered and Hernandez found himself wide open in the middle of the box with just the keeper to beat. He made no mistake about it this time as he finished in the bottom side-netting on the left side of the goal.
The Hurricanes continued to battle hard and obtained possession in the Manteo defensive third several times but the Redskin backline held strong by never allowing any real threat of a shot on target.
Manteo began to attempt to take advantage of the Hurricane’s high line. There was plenty of space to play balls into behind their line and Manteo varied the attempts. McOwen and Taylor were both played through but failed to convert as a defender and the goalie made last-ditch efforts to thwart the attack. Manteo’s striker, Joe Zafra, however, would make the most of his break away.
Diaz started it all by winning the goalie’s punt and heading it forward to Taylor. Taylor was under pressure upon bringing it down and played it back to an encroaching Hernandez. Hernandez quickly played a well-weight ball through to Zafra on the run through the backline. Zafra was in on goal, took a touch out to his right, drew the keeper over towards the near post, and then finished with a low shot back to the far post.
With twenty minutes left in the first half, it was 2-0, and the score would remain that way until three minutes left in the half.
McOwen won a ball out on the far right flank and dribbled diagonally into the box. McOwen then unleashed a line-drive bullet right at the keeper that deflected off his hands and across the goal. Noah Goetsch was ready and waiting on the far post and clean it up quickly, netting Manteo’s third goal of the game.
During halftime, Manteo seniors and their parents were recognized. The senior class of 2018 encompasses Bryson Casey, Sam Diaz, Erik Hernandez, Trent Jones Jr., Ryan McOwen, William Pendleton, Landon Taylor, Jose Velasco, Bradys Zavala, and manager Ian Johnston.
Minutes into the second half, Zavala was inches away from netting his first goal of the season and he bodied a ball towards goal that was sent in from a Hernandez corner kick. A Hurricane defender cleared it off the line just before Zavala’s ball could cross the line.
The physicality of the game intensified in the second half, particularly in the midfield, as the Hurricanes grew tiresome of Manteo’s midfield dancing on the ball and passing around them through their midfield triangle.
Manteo continued to exploit the high line of the Hurricanes. Hernandez began to play quicker balls out of the midfield and for Manteo’s fourth goal of the fixture, he found Taylor making a deep run out of the midfield past the Hatteras backline. It was a well-weight ball through for Taylor and he found himself being closed in on from both sides as the defenders pressed hard. Taylor made his way into the box and got his shot off just in time as the defenders engulfed him. The quick and low shot caught the keeper sleeping and found the back of the net.
Things got a big chippy from there as Hernandez had his legs swept out from under him. The defender saw none of the ball and was awarded a yellow card for his misconduct and unruly tackle.
The Redskins would not back down from the physical play. In fact, it seemed to incite their desire to score more goals. Carter Calvio flashed a bit of brilliance to make the score 5-0 with twenty minutes remaining in the game. Manteo took a corner kick that was headed out of the six-yard box to the top of the 18-yard box. A Hatteras defender looked to control and turn the bouncing ball out. Calvio let the defender make the first touch before swooping in from behind to steal it away. His touch took him away from goal but he flipped his hips on his strike, opting for a chip shot bound for the far post. The keeper could only turn to watch it float over his head and into the goal.
With fifteen minutes left in the game, Manteo opted to make a copious amount of substitutions. It was unclear whether the substitutions were in response to the scoreline or to avoid injuries to key players. Either way, the style and effectiveness of Manteo’s play were not lost with the new lineup. They continued to control the majority of possession and even added one more goal to the scoreline.
The goal began with Ivey Midgett playing a well-weighted diagonal ball to Brayan Hernandez on the right wing. Hernandez quickly drove the ball into the right corner of the box before playing a ball across to striker, Andrew Hayman. Hayman made an attempt to put it away the first time, but the ball squirted by him. It rolled back to the top of the box, past everyone, falling to Joe Zafra. Zafra played it to his left and opted for a left-footed strike but it rolled off the side of his foot with little force. Hayman was still atop the six-yard box, having gathered himself, he then played this second ball on the first time with no mistake about it. The ball found the back of the net and Hayman found redemption within seconds by staying focused.
The game would end in a 6-0 victory for your Manteo Redskins. The Redskins finish the regular season with a 17-1 record. The MaxPreps.com rankings were updated today (10/26/18) and Manteo held onto their number two ranking in 1A state classification. They also finish as the number one team in the eastern part of the state. This gives Manteo home field advantage all the way through the state playoffs.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “This was a great game for us to prepare for playoffs with. The tempo was fast paced and it was an incredibly physical game. I love physical soccer. We needed to be tested with a team that showed no fear against us. The score does not show just how hard Hatteras forced us to play. This may have been the hardest 6-0 victory I have ever seen. Our midfield trio stepped up their tempo and covered a lot of ground tonight. Pendleton was the energizer bunny out on the left. I could go on and on. I was pleased and I am excited to see what we can accomplish in the playoffs. We worked extremely hard all spring and summer to prepare for this top seed and this run towards a title.”