THE NEWS JOURNAL
WILMINGTON Appoquinimink dominated the first half. Charter of Wilmington dominated the second half.
The Jaguars scored twice during their dominant stretch, and the Force could only manage one after gaining control. So Appo escaped with a 2-1 road victory in a big Blue Hen Flight A boys soccer showdown on Tuesday.
“I could tell some of our players were starting to slow down,” said Stephane Ratsimbazafy, who scored Appo’s second goal. “Charter had us, really for the last 20 minutes. Anything could have happened. But we have one of the best defenses in the state.”
That defense was just enough to move the third-ranked Jaguars to 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the conference. The second-ranked Force (5-3, 3-1) dropped their third one-goal decision in a row, on the heels of close losses to No. 1 Salesianum and Malvern Prep (Pa.).
“We’re frustrated, disappointed, because we know we can put together two good halves of soccer,” Charter coach Jon Gillespie said. “We just didn’t today.”
The teams played evenly until the 29th minute, when Appo earned a free kick just outside the penalty area 10 yards right of center. Matt Dina unleashed a bender that cleared the Charter wall and glanced off the fingertips of Force goalkeeper Will Connolly for a 1-0 lead.
“It was set up perfectly. It couldn’t have been better placed for me to take the kick,” Dina said. “I’m the only left-footer on the team, so it was my shot.”
The Jaguars doubled the margin in the final minute of the half. A long throw-in by Lance Ksiazek went to Austin Russo. He slipped it over to Ratsimbazafy, who wheeled and fired to make it 2-0.
“You can’t play poorly against a good team like that, because they will punish you,” Gillespie said. “And they did. Two goals in the first half.”
Charter cut into the deficit in the 53rd minute. Brian Shannon was in deep when he passed back to Tommaso Morrione, who charged in for a 20-yard blast that made it 2-1.
The goal energized the Force, as they began to control possession and generate opportunities. Their best chance to tie came on a 30-yard free kick by Kevin Eriksen in the 73rd minute, but Appo goalkeeper Jason Sommer was equal to the task.
“We obviously played better in the first half, and they outplayed us in the second half,” Jaguars coach Adam Bear said. “… They’re a good team. I knew they were going to come out and play better. I think we kind of packed it in a little bit more than we should have in the second half.”
But Appo held on for the victory, in a much different way than the Jaguars’ last visit to Charter. Last year, the Force took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before Appo finally won 3-2 in overtime.
“We talked about last year, how Charter came out with a lot of energy and put us under pressure most of the game,” Dina said. “This year, we didn’t want that to happen. So we put them under pressure, and it worked out for us.”
Contact Brad Myers at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ