Cleveland stepped up and took control of the tempo midway through the first half and used two Wes Llosa goals and to go on and claim their third consecutive region championship with a 3-0 win over the Cavaliers.
“Cookeville is a very good team. They have had a very good season. It was real back and forth in the beginning. It looked like it was going to be a barn burner,” said Cleveland coach John Brose afterward. “We talked the other night how we needed to put together a full 80 minutes and tonight we did it.”
The victory set the Raiders on a collision course with LaVerne or Riverdale — who’s meeting was postponed by rain — Saturday in the sub-state match at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex. The winner travels to Spring Fling in the state tournament in Murfreesboro. Game time is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Thursday’s
The Raiders knocked on the door several times in the first half before Wes Llosa finally kicked it down with a goal just inside the near post in the 31st minute to give Cleveland all the points it would need.
“We were kind of knocking on the door there for a little bit and then Wes got the goal. It was a good little ball over the top by (Ethan) Pruitt and Shane (Butler) headed in. It was a good finish,” explained the Cleveland coach. “It kind of opened it up from there. We used that and played great the rest of the game.”
Llosa came through once more for the Blue Raiders in the 40th minute with another goal and another assist from Butler, this time to the far post to put Cleveland up 2-0 at halftime.
“Shane slid the ball through to him and he got a great shot right to the back post where he is supposed to put it, right where the keeper couldn’t get it,” said Brose.
At halftime Brose and assistant Andy Byrd impressed upon the Raiders the importance of not letting down and continuing to play as if they were down 2-0 instead of leading by two.
“A 2-0 lead is a dangerous lead to have,” Brose stated. “If they get a goal in the first five or 10 minutes and get the momentum back it could get real interesting. We played real well defensively in the beginning of the second half.”
Cleveland keeper Garrett Koon and the Raiders kept the Cavaliers out of the goal in the second half and sealed the win with one more score. Koon had five saves on the night. Cleveland had four shots on goal to the Cavaliers’ two.
After serving up two assists, Butler got his moment in the spotlight in the closing minutes and salted the win away. The Blue Raider senior forward took the set up from Llosa and booted in the third and final goal of the night to make the final score 3-0.
“Llosa played the ball to Shane and he got a good finish on it. When we got the third goal it was definitely icing on the cake. Wes and Shane played great up front together. Wes had some great finishes in the second half,” said Brose.
Brose said afterward he felt the play in the midfield was what gave the Raiders the win in the end.
“Overall I think we won the game in the midfield. Ethan Pruitt, Ben Kimball and Adam Martin played spectacular for us tonight in the center of the field. We were really able to control it and get a lot of opportunities from their controlling the ball and distributing it out to everybody else.
“We also had a solid performance in the back. It was a good job by Garrett getting another shutout for us. Tyler Goza, Trey Sluder and Sterling Hines all played great in the back. It was really a full team performance. I’m really proud of the guys. They really put it all together.”
The Blue Raiders will be on the practice field this afternoon before tonight’s graduation ceremonies in preparation for a shot at the state championship Saturday.