On Tuesday, November 16th, your Manteo Redskins traveled into Snow Hill to take on the Greene Central Rams for the east regional finals. With a trip to the state championship game on the line, both teams were sure to give it everything they had.
The Rams came into the contest boasting an impressive 24-1 record, built much on the backs of three key attacking players. The Manteo defense was sure to be tested by their prolific attackers.
As the game kicked off, Manteo supporters filled the away stands to capacity, including an impressive student section that traveled to cheer on their peers. The home side stands were also eventually filled to capacity and the support was worthy of the moment.
Manteo came out of the gate playing on their front foot and got on the ball early on in the first couple of minutes. The Redskins aggressively tried to overload the right flanks and earned a series of throw-ins as the Rams presented an early ‘bend don’t break’ mentality.
The tide quickly changed with the Rams clearing a Manteo, midfield throw-in deep down their right flank. Eddie Turberville chased it down under pressure and cleared the ball back up the middle near the center circle. The ball was quickly intercepted by a Ram midfielder. He took a collective first touch while getting his head up. He spotted Manteo’s goalie, Cody Weaver, off his line and he laced a shot on his second touch from 45 yards out. The high lofty shot was always dropping as Weaver scrambled backward, clearly in trouble. The ball struck the crossbar and bounced back out into play. Manteo was able to clear the ball out but it was an early warning sign that they needed to be ready for anything.
The Rams presented a quick, downhill attacking style that generally only saw four attackers push forward while the other six sat back near the midline. When their defensive six won the ball in midfield, they quickly played into their attacking unit.
Manteo was having trouble getting on the ball, and when they did, they struggled to stay on the ball as the Rams quickly swarmed them with their strong defensive unit. Manteo began to look for direct, long service into the space behind the Ram backline, but the defenders proved to be much faster and stronger than they appeared, and generally simply played the ball out of bounds before a Manteo attacker could make a play on the ball.
The Rams were creating attacking opportunities while Manteo struggled to test the keeper. It was not until the midpoint of the first half that Manteo earned its first shot on goal. Amyas Kenyon looked to penetrate through the middle of the attacking midfield. He was fouled hard by the Rams center defensive midfielder, but Kenyon kept his feet and the official signaled advantage as Kenyon collected the ball, now in the right-side slot. Kenyon would need to beat the same defender that just fouled him so he opted for a shot from deep. The shot was worth taking at that moment, but it gave the keeper little trouble as he collected it.
The Rams preferred to combine down their left flank, giving Manteo right-back, Alex Tovar, much to do. Tovar found himself in quite a few one on one duels in which he stood his attacker up, and either won the ball or forced it out of bounds.
Ten minutes remained in the first half when Manteo earned their best-attacking opportunity of the match. The Rams took a goal-kick in which Damian Rivera brought down the ball in the center circle. Rivera was able to dribble the ball forward while drawing the defense in, before playing diagonally out wide to Trent Hayman. Hayman received the ball on the right flank. His early cross attempt was blocked by his defender and came right back to him. He then drove the ball further down into the corner of the box before playing a low cross atop the six-yard box. Aidan Braswell was in the area but could not get a touch to the ball as he extended out in an effort to do so. The ball made its way to the back post to the feet of Oscar Rivera. Rivera had to come back to receive the ball. He then turned to face up the goal with a defender closing in on him. He pulled the ball across to his favored left foot and fired off a near-post shot that sailed inches wide.
Four minutes remained in the first half when center-back Eddie Turberville cleared his lines with a short ball forward to Dylan Jones in the center midfield. Jones took off on the dribble and was quickly clipped. The ball rolled over to Oscar Rivera on the left flank and the advantage call was signaled again. Rivera looked to dribble his sideline but a sliding tackle dispossessed the ball from him. The Rams defender quickly played forward down the line. Their midfielder received the ball and quickly played the winger on the overlap down the line. The Manteo backline dropped back in as the ball was dribbled near the end-line. Brian Estrada-Tovar marked the Ram’s striker as he made his run into the box. Just as #11 entered the box, he veered off and back towards the ball and received a cut-back ball on the ground from the winger. He opened his hips up to let the ball run across his body and set up a shot with his favored left foot. Estrada-Tovar tried to recover but the shot was away quickly. The quick shot surprised Weaver as it sailed over his hands, struck the bottom of the crossbar, and bounced back across the goal-line to give the Rams a 1-0 lead.
The teams entered the half with the scoreline remaining the same. Manteo had certainly been in tougher situations this playoff and it was still anyone’s game to win. However, Manteo would need to start getting shots on target.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Rams took a free-kick just behind the midline. The kick was short and intercepted by Hayman who cleared it up over the high line of the Rams. Braswell was able to chase it down on the left flank and win it from the recovering center-back. Braswell was isolated up top as the Redskins had fallen back into defensive shape for the free-kick. Three defenders surrounded Braswell and with no one to pass to, he was forced to dribble wide down the left flank. He used his pace to outrun his pressers and turned the corner to dribble the near post. Under pressure, Braswell got a shot off, but the goalie was well-positioned to swallow it up.
Shortly after Manteo’s attack, the Rams worked the ball back down into Manteo’s 18-yard box. A pair of big-time saves from Weaver kept the Redskins in the game.
Manteo’s best attacking opportunities were now coming mostly from long set pieces or long throw-ins into the box. Turberville served up a beautiful long ball to the back post off a midfield free-kick. Hayman peeled off his marker, tracking the high lofty ball to the back post to put his head on it. His header was just wide of the near post. Minutes later, Ivey Midgett launched a long throw-in deep into the 18-yard box. A Ram headed the ball up and just outside the 18-yard box. Justin Ortega-Santos caught it on the volley with a swinging left foot. The ball was struck well with a fierce dip on it, but it passed just outside of the far post.
Sixteen minutes remained in the game when Greene Central earned a free-kick in their attacking midfield. They quickly played the ball short. The short pass drew three defenders surrounding the ball in the middle of the pitch. The Ram quickly played the ball back to the left slot from which the ball had initially come. The Ram’s midfielder stood up his pressing defender before lofting a high cross over the backline. The Ram’s striker made his run between both of Manteo’s center-backs. The cross fell perfectly onto his head as he guided it towards goal from eight yards out. The quick redirection with the head beat Weaver and Manteo found themselves down 2-0 with the clocking waning.
In the final minutes of the game, the Rams changed very little. They continued to attack only with their front four, while always defending with at least six. Their striker dropped deeper at times to help collect clearances as Manteo looked to force the issue going forward. Manteo switched to one holding midfielder and two strikers up top but they still struggled to get past the Ram’s defense and test the goalie.
The gamed ended with a 2-0 victory for the Rams.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “It was a remarkable run for us. Nothing was easy and we fought for everything we earned. I am proud of the statement we made coming into 2A, showing that we are a strong program, no matter which classification. In tonight’s game, we played hard, but not our best. We fell into the type of game they enjoy and we did not possess the ball with short and simple passes. We tried over and over to beat them with pace and it didn’t work. We talked about changes at the half, but they never materialized. They are certainly a good team though, and wish them all the luck going forward to represent the east.”
|Pass Success Rate||52%||58%|