Zebras score 4 goals in 12 minutes, rally past Valley
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON –- The visiting Rochester boys soccer team scored four goals in a 12-minute span of the second half to beat conference and sectional rival Tippecanoe Valley 4-2 Wednesday.
Zach Pickens, Eric Eikenberry, Wade Shafer and Mitchell Shafer scored for RHS. Wade Shafer not only had the go-ahead goal but also had two assists, and Eikenberry also had a helper.
Valley led 1-0 at halftime on a Christian Ramirez goal and extended the lead to 2-0 when Ramirez floated a long pass through the air right to the foot of Caleb Petgen, who beat RHS keeper Parker Wallace with 33:04 left.
Zach Pickens started the four-goal rally, when he converted from the penalty spot with 19:30 left after Wade Shafer was knocked down inside the 18.
Eikenberry equalized at the 16:15 mark, putting in a rebound from the right just inside the crossbar after a Pickens run on a counterattack was blocked at the defense.
Wade Shafer gave RHS their first lead at the 8:25 with a low skidding shot that eluded Valley goalkeeper Kynan Cords.
“So I took a shot,” Wade Shafer said. “It was a decent rip. It was just too far out to be a threat. And then the keeper just made an error, and it went through his feet.”
Forty-eight seconds later, Mitchell Shafer, Wade’s younger brother, scored to give RHS a 4-2 lead.
RHS coach Trevor Brown said he gave a halftime speech centered around team play.
“Everybody was trying to win the game on their own,” Brown said. “We talked about at halftime that one, you’ve got to stay true to the system. Even if we give up a second goal, you can’t get away from what works.
“And then basically that we have to pass the ball. We did too much one-on-one in the first half. It was selfish. In the second half, we started knocking the ball around – a lot more possession. And that’s the kind of soccer that we like to play. And you saw in the last 20 minutes, the momentum shifted, and we really controlled the game in the second half.”
Both teams could be considered young. Nine of Valley’s 11 starters are either freshmen or sophomores. Meanwhile, RHS has only two seniors.
Still, the Zebras might have been the more physically imposing team.
“We’re very small,” Valley coach Andrew Luce said. “We’re not very strong. They’re the stronger, quicker team.”
Cords, a freshman, was filling in for Alexis Hernandez, who was out with a thumb injury. This was Cords’ first appearance in a varsity game at goalkeeper.
“Actually what we decided to do before the game was put five defenders back to help out our keeper,” Luce said. “We felt like we needed to protect him.”
The young player that might be having the most impact for RHS is Eikenberry.
“He’s a good athlete,” Brown said. “He’s strong. He’s got a high soccer IQ. He’s been playing for a long time. He’s very coachable. He listens. We pull him out and tell him something to do, and he does it. And you know, he had a great game tonight. He had the game-tying goal, and he had the game-winning assist to Wade. That’s pretty awesome for a freshman.”
The loss continued a troublesome trend for Valley.
“Fatigue has been a factor for us all season in the second half,” Luce said. “The Manchester game, the Culver game on Monday, this game tonight and … Maconaquah, that’s four games we’ve been in, tied or leading late, and our depth is very thin right now.”
Then again, RHS made very few substitutions either.
“Tippy has a reputation of dying in the second half, which we knew that was going to happen,” Wade Shafer said. “In the past games, they’ve been up and then would fall, so we knew their conditioning wasn’t even close to where we were. So we figured if we’d keep playing and play smart and just play around them, they’ll end up dying, and we took advantage of that.”