By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando boys soccer coach Patrick Anderson put that 10-minute halftime break to maximum best use during Tuesday's Region II quarterfinal matchup against Warren County at Arrowhead Stadium.
Although his team held a one-goal lead at the break, Anderson saw plenty of disturbing signs. For one thing, Warriors goalkeeper Rodrigo Casteriana had been awfully busy. For another, Sherando's normally productive offense wasn't doing much.
Anderson's instructions amounted to this --close down and speed up. The Warriors did both, sapping the Wildcats' offensive threat while producing three goals in a 10-minute span on the way to a 6-0 victory.
"The first 10 minutes is important, and we came out in pretty good shape to fire off a couple there real quick," Anderson said.
Those 10 minutes were so pivotal to both teams. As Sherando (16-1-1) started picking up momentum, Warren County (10-8-1) simply fell to pieces.
"Those first 10 minutes, it was just a total meltdown," Wildcats coach Manuel Alban said. "The kids just basically didn't recover -- couldn't recover. I want to say it's inexperience with some of these kids, but it's a game of momentum. We lost momentum and we never regained it in the second half."
Leading 1-0, the Warriors added to it with 35:37 left in the game when Will Tatum hit a hard shot into the box. Teammate Cade Petty was lurking near the post, and he stepped into the ball and redirected it past Wildcats goalkeeper Tristan Ward for a goal.
Petty returned the favor just three minutes later, snapping off a cross into the box from the right side to teammate Andrew Wade, who connected on a crushing shot that logged in the upper half of the net.
"Our chemistry was on that second half," Petty said. "We were putting away all our finishes. We weren't missing."
Less than three minutes later, the Warriors struck once more. This time, sophomore forward Tommy Buono sprang loose for a run toward the left post. Ward charged and blocked Buono's initial attempt, but the ball came loose and Buono was there to put away the second-chance shot.
"There were 10 minutes where we couldn't do anything," Warren County senior Johannes Dyck said. "[Sherando] took that time to make all those goals. I think we just had 10 minutes where we lost everything."
It was a stark contrast to the first 40 minutes, when the Wildcats gave Sherando everything they could handle. Warren County stayed dead-even on shot attempts at 10 apiece in the first half, and forced Warriors keeper Rodrigo Casteriana into eight first-half saves.
The Warriors finally broke through with 13:08 left in the first half, when Buono collected a long ball from Alex Burns in the penalty area. Ward tried for the ball as well, but Buono got there first and deftly tapped a shot into the open net for the game's first goal.
Dyck nearly got the equalizer in stoppage time with a direct kick that forced Casteriana into a leaping one-handed tip save.
"First half, I think we had a territorial domination of the game," Alban said. "We just couldn't finish them. We just lacked a little more strength up top, and we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we were given. I think if we would have been able to put a couple balls away in the first half, the game would have been a little bit different."
Anderson was happy to have that one-goal lead, all things considered, heading into the break.
"We definitely were giving them too much space to turn and dribble at us," Anderson said. "That's an adjustment we made at halftime. We had to close down the space. We were just giving them way too much space. We were kind of sagging and letting them come to us. With those guys, they've got some good finishers on that team.
On offense, we just had to play quicker. We were just dragging too much, everything was just too slow to develop."
The Wildcats, making their first-ever regional appearance, didn't fare well after that first half. Following Sherando's three-goal outburst in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Warriors kept up the pressure. Buono notched an assist with 25:43 to play when he sent a soft arcing kick into the box for Tatum to finish with another goal.
Then with 12:27 to play, Sherando's Tyler Morris capped the scoring by heading in a goal off Dilan Heskett's long throw-in that reached the penalty area.
The regional victory was Sherando's first since 2007, and the Warriors will be on the road for Thursday's regional semifinals against Tuscarora with a Group AA state berth on the line.
"It's great because it's been so long, and that's one of the things these guys were striving for after getting knocked out in the first round last year," Anderson said. "We set up goals at the beginning of the year, and that's one of the things that we wanted to do."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>