On Monday, November 8th, your Manteo Redskins hosted the James Kenan Tigers in the third round of the state playoffs. The Tigers has previously bested two other teams from the Northeastern Coastal Athletic Conference by beating Pasquotank 10-1, and Northeastern High School by a score of 7-3. The Redskins were be eager to represent their conference proudly.
Despite a weekend that brought yet another low pressure over the coastline along with high winds, waves, and rain, the game time conditions were quite ideal. The wind had laid down to become minimal and the field was dry and ready for action on a beautiful November evening.
The game kicked off at a feverous pace, largely in favor of the Tigers. The away side had been boasting large scoring totals all year, even setting a state record by scoring 25 goals in one half. They certainly had a few thoroughbreds up top and they were off to the races from the start. Early on, the Redskins struggled to settle into the pace at which James Keanan played. There were minimal lateral passing attempts, as it was all downhill, vertical attacking.
Manteo held strong for 15 minutes until a through ball was played into the middle of the 18-yard box and the runner on the ball was brought down with a clumsy challenge. The official blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. On the resulting penalty kick, the kicker sent goalkeeper, Cody Weaver, diving to one side while he drove the ball down the middle.
Less than three minutes later, after going down a goal, another penalty kick was awarded to the Tigers. Their main attacker, #11, slipped in a through ball past the back-line, which left Manteo’s center-back chasing the man from behind in the box. The ball was slightly overweighted and the attacker tried to find his 5th gear to reach the ball but began to stumble. Manteo’s center-back put one hand on the back of the attacker as Weaver came out to collect the ball. The attacker went to the ground, the whistle blew, and the official again pointed to the spot. To make matters worse, the official reached in his pocket and showed Manteo’s center-back a red card.
The resulting penalty kick was slotted perfectly into the top right corner of the goal. The Redskins were now down by two goals and they would have to play down a man the entire rest of the game as well.
A brief utter shock swept across the field only to be quickly replaced with a resiliency that would fuel on the Redskins throughout the game.
The formation changed into a flat 4-4-1 and players were shuffled around to accommodate the formational shift.
Manteo had already been having a difficult time handling the attacking prowess of the Tigers and now they had to suffer more behind the ball. There would be no surrender from the Redskins and they dug deep, worked together to patiently find counter-attacking opportunities.
It was not until six minutes remaining in the first half that Manteo earned their first shot on target. What a shot it was! Damian River, now playing center-back, got the counter-attack going by winning a duel inside the box and clearing the ball up to Trent Hayman in the slot. Hayman took an inward touch and then squared the ball over to Aidan Braswell. Hayman took off on the over-lap as Braswell played long to Oscar Rivera in the striker position. Rivera used his pace to chase the ball down the left flank and cross the ball into the box with an eye for Hayman. The Tigers had four defenders collapse in the box, and were able to clear the ball out of the 18-yard box. Braswell had been following his pass, and he positioned himself to win the short clearance outside of the box. He headed the ball forward to himself before chesting the ball down all while a defender pressed him hard from behind. Under duress, Braswell struck it with his laces on the half-volley from just outside the 18-yard box. A quick, full horizontal dive from the keeper got a touch on the ball and the ball deflected off the crossbar. The ball was quickly cleared out of danger by their left-back.
The shot brought new life to the packed crowd and the Redskins alike.
Three minutes remained in the first half when Manteo earned a corner kick. A quick combination saw the ball at the feet of Oscar Rivera with a sliver of space to eye on the near post. Rivera kept his shot low and let it rip. The pace and placement of the shot beat the keeper on his near post and home fans erupted. Hope was alive and well in those that call themselves Redskins.
Play resumed and the Tigers were back on the attack. Less than one minute after cutting the deficit in half, Manteo was putting together another counterattack. Again, it was Hayman that received the ball out from his backline. He played forward to Rivera as he got into the attacking final third. Rivera’s touch popped the ball up a bit as he was sandwiched by three defenders. One of the center-backs turned to shield Rivera from the ball in an attempt to allow his partner to win the ball facing forward. Braswell showed a keen eye for trouble as she swept in from the right flank just at that moment when the center-back slipped going to the bouncing ball. Braswell stuck his foot out to knock it wide into space inside the 18-yard box. He then took a collecting touch towards the goal to see the goalie sprinting out at him. He sliced the ball on the ground with the outside of his right foot to slot it past the approaching goalie and into the back of the net. Just as James Kenan had scored twice in a matter of minutes, Manteo had now done the same to send the teams into halftime all level.
The team halftime talks were likely quite different. A belief was now instilled in Manteo. Being a man down did not matter all of a sudden. It was game on and things were just heating up.
Manteo kept their momentum rolling right out of the halftime break. A minute and a half in and the Tigers played another central through ball beyond the backline of the Redskins. Weaver came sliding out for a kick save and Alex Tovar finished the clearance by playing up to Braswell near the midline. Braswell came back to collect the ball, turned, and took off on the dribble into open space in the left slot. Oscar Rivera took off down the left flank as Braswell attacked the right-back with his dribble, freezing the defender before slipping a pass beyond him to Rivera on the run. Rivera was second to the ball as the center-back arrived just before him. The defender looked to clear the ball on his first touch but Rivera blocked his clearance, playing himself into the 18-yard box for a one on one with the goalie. River dribbled inside the six-yard box and the keeper came strong to his near post, staying tall. Rivera gave the ball a cheeky flick with the outside of his left foot that popped the ball past the keeper and into the back of the net.
The Redskins now found themselves leading the game by a score of 3-2 with 38 minutes remaining.
In the next twelve minutes of play, each team had its opportunities. Manteo was able to counter-attack a bit more often as the Tigers left themselves vulnerable while pushing forward for the equalizer. Braswell and Hayman both had decent opportunities in that period of play but were unable to find the frame. On the defensive end, Weaver made a handful of big-time saves to hold onto the lead.
With 24 minutes remaining in the game, the Tigers goalkeeper launched a 60-yard punt that cleared the Manteo backline and saw their center-back under pressure to clear the bouncing ball as the Tiger’s main attacker was challenging for the ball with a full head of steam. Brian Estrada-Tovar got his foot to the ball but the Tiger’s #11 deflected the clearance and quickly turned to chase it down. He collected it, spun again, this time with the ball at his feet, and fired off a top-bins worldie that would score at any level. The game was level, 3,3.
With sixteen minutes remaining on the clock, Manteo earned a free-kick five yards outside the left corner of the 18-yard box. Braswell stood over the ball eyeing his options. He had only eyes for goal. Braswell wrapped his foot around the ball and drove the ball around the corner of the wall and back to his near post. The keeper was frozen by the late bend on the ball and the pace at which it stung the net. The crowd was on their feet, the goal flag was running down the sideline, and the hopes of the Redskins were flying high with a 4-3 lead.
Ten minutes remained when another quality strike from outside the 18-yard box called Weaver into action. A power-dive to his left parried the ball wide but it was still in play. A Tiger attacker looked to pounce on the ball for a rebound shot but Oscar Rivera (now in the left-back position) beat his man to the ball to deny the attempt.
The Tiger attacks were relentless. They were throwing numbers forward in an effort to equalize, and Manteo was badly outnumbered.
Seven minutes remained and Manteo thwarted an attacking ball inside the box but the clearance was poor. It was quickly collected outside the box by the same player that tried to play it in, #11. He collected the ball on the right flank and quickly began to dribble laterally into the middle of the field. He wrapped his left foot around the ball this time and laced the left top-bin. A valiant effort by Weaver was no match for the power strike. The game was level once again.
The whistle blew at the end of regulation and the 4-4 scoreline meant there was more soccer to be played.
In playoff overtime periods, you must play two ten-minute periods. If the game is still tied at that point, you enter two five-minute, golden goal periods. A tie game after 110 minutes of soccer sends the fixture to a penalty shootout.
Manteo certainly saw the best chance of the first ten-minute overtime period. Two minutes in, Hayman launched a throw into the 18-yard box. The ball was headed down into the box by the defenders. Amyas Kenyon was holding space near the penalty marker and struck the ball on the half-volley. He struck it true with his laces and the ball seemed destined for glory, however, the Tiger’s goalie produced a world-class reactionary save to parry the ball over the crossbar.
The remainder of the first overtime period passed quickly and without much danger on either side of the pitch. Even though it was Manteo playing down a man for most of the match, it seemed to be the Tigers that were wearing down.
Two minutes into the second overtime period, the Tigers attacked down their left flank and Tovar found himself in a one-on-one duel. Tovar displaced the ball from the attacker and quickly played forward to Hayman on the right flank. Hayman played a diagonal pass inside to Braswell and Braswell played Hayman back down the line in a one-two passing combination. Hayman left his initial mark behind early on only to draw the center-back over. The center-back was no match for Hayman’s pace as he glided by him as well, keeping the ball close as he entered the 18-yard box and angled towards the front post. One last defender positioned in front of Hayman at the top of the six-yard and tried to stand him up while the other two defenders recovered on his heels. Hayman leaned outside with the ball before cutting back inside, turning the final defender all around. Hayman gave a swift flick on the ball with the outside of his right foot to send the ball on the ground to the back post. The ball clanked off the inside of the post and rolled across the line.
Manteo led by a score of 5-4 with 8 minutes remaining in overtime. It was time to defend for their lives. It was time to defend to win.
The ten Manteo players were utterly exhausted but the roar and cheers of the fans kept them going. Everyone was defending and everything was a ‘big clear’. They just wanted to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible, and the Tiger’s #11 if they could help it.
One minute and thirty seconds remained in the game when Damian Rivera launched a goal-kick for Manteo into the midfield. Kenyon won the second ball before finding himself sandwiched in between two other players. Kenyon somehow got a lofted, curling pass out from the pressure towards Hayman in the right slot. Hayman headed the ball out wide and then quickly chased it down along the right sideline. Hayman again used his strength and pace to keep the defender at bay, dribbling into the 18-yard box. As he entered the box, the defender opted for a sliding challenge but came up short, leaving Hayman one-on-one with the goalkeeper racing out to the ball. Hayman slotted the ball into the far-post side-netting before the keeper could even attempt a dive.
Ecstacy and bewilderment filled the air! Players and fans were beside themselves in amazement at what they had just witnessed.
The final whistle blew and Manteo boasted a 6-4 victory over James Kenan.
The sideline staff kept the fans at bay as long as they could and as long as necessary to get the away players and officials off the field before the fans rushed the field to celebrate with their team. Hugs and tears of joy were commonplace.
Everyone seemed to be in agreeance. This was the most exciting soccer game anyone had ever seen!
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “We are all incredibly proud of our team tonight for never quitting, and giving every single ounce of energy they had tonight. It is not only representative of our team culture, but our community as well. When times are tough, we know how to come together. I’ve played in and coached quite a few exciting games, but this one is beyond what any Hollywood screenwriter could ever write. It had it all!”
Aidan Braswell: 2 goals, 2 assist
Oscar Rivera: 2 goals
Trent Hayman: 2 goals
|Pass Success Rate||48%||63%|