A Game of Inches

On Monday, March 22nd, Manteo hosted the Franklin Academy Patriots in a third round state playoff game. The winner of the game would advance to the regional finals, to face off against undefeated Voyager Academy, who had already beaten Rosewood in the third round on Saturday.

The game was a long awaited rematch for the Redskins. Two years ago, after earning the number one seed in the east, Manteo hosted the Patriots in an intense third round game that saw the Patriots advance after a penalty shootout. The Redskins were eager for revenge and to take down the reigning state champions.

In the pre-game build up, the tension was palpable. While the in-person fan attendance would be limited due to COVID-19 attendance guidelines, many more eyes would be viewing through the live-stream on YouTube. Everyone knew it would be a memorable game one way or another.

The Patriots kicked-off the game and dropped the ball back to their center defensive midfielder and then back to their center-back. Manteo’s Andrew Hayman lead an aggressive press. Under pressure from Hayman, the center-back receiving the second pass looked to play forward to his center midfielder. Carter Calvio began the game on the left flank, and began cutting inside on the initial press to squeeze the Franklin defense. Calvio read the pass into the middle and quickly cut in front of the midfielder to intercept the ball. Calvio used two quick dribbles to push the ball into the middle of the pitch, just outside of the 18-yard box. On his third touch, Calvio fired off a low dipping shot just before a pressing defender could get a deflection on the ball. The quick and early shot seemed to catch the Franklin goalkeeper off guard. The ball skipped off the ground, just in front of the keeper and over his legs as he dove in the wrong direction. The ball laced the back of net to the elation of the home side.

It was a dream start for Manteo. Fourteen seconds had ticked off the game clock, and they found themselves with an early 1-0 lead.

The Patriots settled themselves and got back on the ball. With the early goal nixing all of the possible nerves for each team, the speed of the game was fast paced and intense from the first minute. While Franklin spent a bit more time on the ball than Manteo, they found it difficult to earn quality shots from the field of play. In the first five minutes of play, Manteo had to defend several Franklin corner kicks. The Redskins won each ball into the box, often by lead Manteo center-back, Yeifer Perez.

Manteo earned their second shot on target off a header by Trent Hayman. In the midfield, Oscar Rivera chased down a Patriot looking to dribble forward. Rivera bodied him off the ball with his shoulder, and flicked the ball behind him perfectly to an on-running Noah Goetsch. Goetsch quickly turned and found Andrew Hayman posting up the center-back. Hayman’s first touch rose up on him so on his second touch, he flicked the ball high over the head of his defender and into the top of the 18-yard box. Trent Hayman made a run in for the flick-on, shoulder to shoulder with the Patriot left-back. Hayman rose up to win the ball in the air, and headed the ball on target. The goalkeeper was able to swallow the shot up, taking it to ground.

Franklin earned their first shot on target 18 minutes into the game. They produced a nice spell of possession with patient build-up and a couple overlapping runs down the left flank before cutting the ball back to the top of 18-yard box. The Franklin attacker was able to squeeze off a shot before being swarmed by the Manteo defense. Manteo goalkeeper, Cody Weaver, was up to the task, producing an explosive diving save to his left. Weaver was able to keep possession on the save, giving no hopes of a rebound shot for the Patriots.

In the twenty sixth minute of play, Franklin had pushed numbers up in their attack and were looking to create an overload down their right flank. Manteo’s defense had packed tight behind the ball with both wingers tucked in, leaving only their striker, Andrew Hayman, up top. The Franklin center-back received a back-pass and looked to play it wide to his extended right-back. Calvio read the pass and stepped up to intercept it. On his second touch going forward, Calvio picked his head up to see Hayman one on one with the center-back. Calvio played a beautiful through ball over the top with the outside of his right foot. The ball bent right into the pathway of an on-running Hayman. Hayman collected the ball at full pace and drove the ball into the box while keeping the pressing defender at bay. Hayman got his shot off from just outside the near post, above the top of the six yard box. With the goalkeeper protecting his near post, Hayman opted for the far post finish. The ball sailed inches past the outside of the far post.

Manteo’s defense was stout throughout the game. They did a great job of keeping the Patriots prolific goal scorer off the ball. They kept the striker at bay so much that he began dropping deep into the midfield by the end of the fist half in an effort to get on the ball.

Manteo finished the first half strong with more efforts on goal. Rivera saw his header off a Hayman corner saved by the goalkeeper. Noah Goetsch saw both a flick-on with his foot and a flick-on with his head hit the top of the crossbar and out of play. Andrew Hayman saw his diving header attempt on goal saved by the goalkeeper and cleared out of the box by the Patriot left-back.

The Redskins took the 1-0 lead into halftime.

Second half play resumed with a familiar theme to the first half. The Patriots continued to push numbers forward, often looking to overlap their left fullback, and create overloads out wide. The attacking tactics of the Patriots allowed them to connect more passes in their attacking half but it left them vulnerable to quick counter attacks. Manteo was keen on catching the isolated center-backs on a quick counter. Manteo center back, Brian Estrada-Tovar, continually did well to step up and win balls along the backline and then picked his head up to quickly play long diagonal balls over the top to the opposite side winger. The tactic forced the Patriot fullbacks to be a bit more cautious in their forward push up the pitch.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, Manteo earned a corner kick. Trent Hayman lofted a ball to the back post for an awaiting Rivera. Rivera elevated and headed the ball back across the goal. The header beat the diving keeper and was floating into the back of the goal. However, the Patriot defender that initially set himself on the near post, turned and cleared the ball off the goal-line. The ball appeared to have completely crossed the line as the defender that cleared it had his plant foot on the goal-line, and his clearing foot extended out to kick the ball. There was no word from the officials and the goal was not given. Play continued.

With fifteen minutes remaining on the game clock, Trent Hayman displayed his worth on the pitch. Hayman had tucked inside in the midfield as Franklin looked to switch the run of play through the middle. Hayman read the pass and lept forward to intercept the pass to the extended wide fullback. Hayman immediately pushed the ball wide and was off to the races with only the center-back to beat down the line. Hayman’s pace beat the defender as he drove the ball down into the corner of the 18-yard box. Andrew Hayman had been making a sprinting run down the middle of the pitch, awaiting the ball in from his brother. Trent crossed the ball in for the on-running Andrew, trying to play his feet. The ball took an awkward hop just before reaching Andrew, and he was unable to connect with the ball. A scramble would ensue afterwards, and Manteo would earn another corner kick.

With nine minutes remaining in regulation, Franklin earned the equalizing goal. The Patriot left-back launched a long throw-in into the six-yard box. Two Manteo defenders rose up to head the ball out, but it was just out of their reach. The ball was deflected off the near post, bounced up into the middle of the goal, and a Patriot attacker headed it home from one yard out. It was a devastating blow to the home side after such a solid defensive performance.

Neither side could net a game winner in regulation and play would go into overtime.

Both sides stuck to their style of play through the overtime periods. Towards the end of the first ten minute overtime period, Estrada-Tovar stepped up to intercept an attempted through ball. Estrada-Tovar picked out Trent Hayman demanding the ball over the top as he had isolated his defender in the slot. Estrada-Tovar played a beautifully weighted ball over the top that fell to Hayman’s feet on the run. Hayman took one dribbling touch into the 18-yard box with his defender on his back and only the keeper to beat. As Hayman went to shoot, the pressing defender put two fully extended hands through Hayman’s back, sending him to the ground, and causing his shot to be a non-threat. Despite a shove in the back in a one on one situation, the flag stayed down, and no whistle blew to award what seemed to be an obvious penalty on a blatant shove in the back.

In the second ten minute overtime period, Andrew Hayman mustered up a few shots on target, but none worthy of beating the goalkeeper. Franklin’s one shot on target was a simple save for Manteo’s Weaver.

In the two, five minute golden goal overtime periods, neither team could earn a real threatening chance on goal. Physical midfield play and tired legs seemed to keep both teams at bay from the the game winner.

After thirty full minutes of extra time, the game remained at a 1-1 stalemate and would now have to be settled in a penalty shootout.

Manteo would shoot first. Perez stepped up first and slotted his into the bottom left corner. Franklin’s first spot-kick taker saw his shot deflect off the inside of the right post, and roll all the way across the goal-line to finally cross the line at the opposite post. Goetsch was up next for Manteo and kept his low and simple, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Franklin’s second kicker sailed his shot over the crossbar giving Manteo a 2-1 lead. Manteo’s third spot kick taker saw his shot saved by the goalkeeper. Franklin’s third kicker sent Weaver the wrong way to net his shot. Rivera stepped up as Manteo’s fourth kick taker and belted his home, giving the goalkeeper no chance at a save. Franklin’s fourth kicker found the right side-netting, inching just past a fully extended dive from Weaver. Manteo’s fifth kicker saw his shot saved as well by the Patriot goalkeeper. This left the door open for the Patriots to win it with their final kick. Franklin’s lead goal scorer on the season stepped up as their fifth spot-kick taker. He struck it with confidence and turned to celebrate with his team.

A devastated Manteo side collapsed to the floor. The Manteo seniors had experienced this defeat before to Franklin during their sophomore season and it was all a bit too much to bare at the moment.

Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “We wanted this win so bad, we could taste it. We felt we were the better team two years ago, and we feel the same tonight. It’s a tough pill to swallow when things do not go your way. On multiple occasions, a matter of a mere inch, determined our fate. Despite coming up short, I’m incredibly proud of this team. This was a challenging year to say the least, with nothing but obstacles to overcome at every turn. Through hard work, determination and perseverance, we overcame every obstacle and put ourselves in a position to beat the reigning state champs. We came up short, but there is much to take away and build upon. Right now it hurts tremendously as loosing in a shootout is always devastating. The game is beautiful but it can be cruel. Such is life.”

Game Stats:

Carter Calvio:1 goal

Cody Weaver: 5 saves

MHSFA
Possession %40.1%59.9%
Attacking Transitions143132
Goals11
Shots1910
Crosses117
Corners66
Free Kicks1322
Passes260406
Successful Passes129272
Pass Success Rate50%67%

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