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Balanced Rappahannock County too much for Rams

By Brad Fauber - sports@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Host Strasburg fell victim to a balanced attack by Bull Run District foe Rappahannock County on Tuesday, falling to the Panthers, 5-2, in boys soccer action.

Both teams battled through a shootout in the first 20 minutes of the game. But the Panthers (3-2, 1-2 Bull Run), fueled by offensive contributions from a variety of players, steadily pulled away in the match's latter half.

"My philosophy has always been that the sum of our parts is greater than any one individual," said Panthers coach James Lofton. "And I think that the performance, particularly in the second half, reflected that attitude of the team. It was a team effort."

Rappahannock County got on the board quickly as sophomore Tanyon Lee dribbled through a pair of Strasburg defenders just inside the penalty area before sending the ball into the left corner of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead barely two minutes into the match.

But Strasburg (1-4, 0-3) was quick to respond as Rams junior Domenico Lubrano muscled the ball away from a Panthers defender before scoring from 20 yards out to knot the score at 1-all with 35:38 left in the first half.

"We came into this game thinking it was going to be a well-matched game," said Rams coach Joel Ross. "They got that goal at the beginning and it was frustrating not to have our intensity up early enough. But that at least motivated us to come back, and Dom got that goal back."

Rappahannock County struck again when Lee connected with a corner kick by Panthers sophomore Amrit Tamang, and the ball glanced off Rappahannock County's Clayton Hatcher and into the goal to give the Panthers a 2-1 advantage with 26:15 left in the half.

The Rams once again responded, this time with a shot from 15 yards out by senior Juan Jimenez-Mora off a crossing pass by teammate John Murphy to tie the game with 15:53 left before halftime.

Rappahannock County seized the lead for good, with a little help from Strasburg, with less than a minute to play in the first half.

Tamang's corner kick ricocheted off a Strasburg defender, and Murphy, trying desperately to prevent the ball from bouncing into the goal, sent the ball straight up into the top of the net to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead heading into intermission.

"That third goal [for Rappahannock County] -- that was a disappointment," Ross said. "We've let a lot of goals in the last 30 seconds. I don't think we play differently, maybe it's that other teams do a better job of raising their intensity in that last minute."

The Panthers wasted no time extending their lead in the second half as Tamang knocked home his first goal of the evening from 10 yards out to push the margin to 4-2.

Strasburg struggled to find many opportunities for goals in the second half as the Rams seemed disorganized at times during their offensive attacks. Much of that disorganization had to do with Rappahannock County's defensive adjustments in the second half.

"I think that there were some defensive errors that led to [Strasburg's] first two goals," Lofton said. "They were beautiful goals by good players, but they were preventable goals. We tried to address those problems at halftime. Organizationally, [our team] was much better in the second half."

The Panthers added one more goal late in the game, off yet another corner kick, for good measure as Hatcher connected on a header from just outside the goal with 2:45 to play.

"They did really well on those corner kicks," Ross said. "They used that very well and we didn't match that."

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