Cleveland’s Raiders knew going into their final game of the regular season that they would be in a battle of “mountain-like” proportions.
That mountain came north in the form of the Signal Mountain Eagles (12-0-1), who definitely lived up to the hype that has surrounded the undefeated and once-tied team this season.
It took the Raiders a full 74 minutes before they were able to break through a strong line of Eagles defenders and knock one past the goalkeeper.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Signal Mountain’s Conner Apthorp had already found the back of the Raiders’ goal twice, giving the Eagles a 2-1 victory.
“It’s not the prettiest soccer you’ve ever seen, but man they (Signal Mountain) work hard, and defensively they are so organized,” Cleveland head coach John Brose commented. “Their back four in front of the keeper make life very difficult for opposing forwards. If you look at their results they’ve only given up a few goals this season and now I can see why that’s the case.”
Both teams fiercely battled on the pitch, until Apthorp was able to get the first goal of the evening in the 31st minute.
Cleveland’s attempts to get past the Eagles defenders continued to be fruitless, and in the 52nd minute Apthorp once again was able to get one past the Raiders’ keeper.
Moss Jones and Anfernee Avila were finally able to break through and string together a play to get Cleveland on the board.
Jones, having previously gotten a shot off that just went wide of the net, sent another one in moments later. Avila made good use of a rebound from the keeper to get the Raiders’ lone goal of the game.
“Between Anfernee and Moss, usually they’re getting in behind the defense and getting good opportunities. It didn’t come until late when we were able to break through there. Moss had a great shot on goal and Anfernee cleaned it up after the goalkeeper gave us the rebound. Signal Mountain made it very difficult for us,” Brose explained.
The Raiders finished the night with six shots on goal, most of which came in the second half, while the Eagles only had three shots on goal.
After the 2-1 win, Signal Mountain became the No. 1 one team in the state for Class A-AA soccer. The only game the Eagles have not won this season came on March 13, when they tied with Southeast Whitfield in a scoreless game.
Despite the one-goal loss, Coach Brose felt the game was a beneficial one as Cleveland enters the postseason.
“Maybe it wasn’t our best night defensively but I was proud of the way our guys played and kept competing the entire 80 minutes. It was a good night to honor our seniors and everyone was able to get in and play,” Brose stated. “I think this will help us going into the postseason. It’s always good to end the regular season playing some good competition.”
EAGLES 2, RAIDERS 1
Halftime score: 1-0 (SM). Goals: Conner Apthorp (SM); Anfernee Avila (C). Record: Cleveland 11-4-3; Signal Mountain 12-0-1.