While they got off to a slow start, the Raiders were able to put together a “tremendous” second half and defeat the Trojans 3-1. With the victory, Cleveland laid claim to the title of District 5-AAA soccer champions.
In the regular season the Raiders fell to the Trojans by a score of 5-3, so the postseason meeting also provided another round of “Raider retribution.”
Despite a thrilling overtime victory two days prior, it took Cleveland a full 40 minutes before the match against Soddy-Daisy turned in the Raiders’ favor.
The Trojans were able to get their lone goal past Cleveland goalkeeper Zach Martin in the final minutes of play in the first half.
His club trailing by a goal at the half, Raider head coach John Brose knew that things would have to rapidly improve for a positive second half.
“We came out a little flat tonight and they had better energy than us in the first half and seemed to want it more overall,” Brose explained. “At halftime I laid it out there and said to get this done, we have to do what we did on Tuesday — come out and play with high energy, play together and put the pressure on them.”
As the second half got underway, a change among the trailing team was quickly visible.
“At the beginning of the second half we were able to get the equalizer a minute and a half in, which just boosted our momentum and gave us a lot of confidence throughout the rest of the half. We got what proved to be the game winner about five minutes later and just kept playing a tremendous second half,” Brose commented.
Anfernee Avila tied things up with a shot that deflected off the Soddy goalkeeper, resulting in a goal that seemed to crawl into the goal.
Moments later, Avila scored the second and ultimately game-winning goal. “Anfernee played like a man possessed tonight in the second half. He was all over the place and they could not contain him,” Brose proclaimed.
The Raiders weren’t quite done on the offensive, as Jesse Jones was able to volley in a third and final goal with under 10 minutes remaining in the match.
“Anfernee has been our leading scorer this year and Jesse is our second-leading scorer. They’ve come up with some big goals throughout the year,” Brose said. “They were able to put a lot of pressure on backs and were able to make them make some mistakes. We had really good service from our midfield as well, to play them in and let them do their thing. It was a total team effort in the second half.”
The champion Raiders will have the home field advantage on Tuesday evening as they host Coffee County in the first round of the Region 3-AAA Tournament.