By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Monday's boys soccer match between host Randolph-Macon Academy and St. John the Baptist was not just a matchup between two Front Royal teams -- it also featured an interesting little rivalry among the teams' head coaches.
St. John's head coach Manuel Alban and R-MA's Jeff Moxie found themselves on opposing benches during Monday's match. During the spring high school soccer season, both coaches share a sideline at Warren County High School, where Moxie is an assistant under Alban.
Monday's match was a case of "student vs. teacher" in the words of Alban, but neither coach claimed much in the way of bragging rights as the Yellow Jackets and the Saints ended the match in a 2-2 tie.
"It was fun, and most of the kids that are playing for St. John's play for Warren County, so they know me and I know them," said Moxie. "It was an equal match the whole game. We each got a lucky goal there at the end. It was a pretty good match."
Scoring opportunities were fairly tough to come by for either team throughout the match, particularly from the latter part of the first half on as the Saints dropped one of their forwards back into a midfield position, which created a lot of traffic in the center of the pitch.
R-MA tallied five shots in the first 22 minutes of the match, but managed just five more shots for the remainder of the contest.
The Saints fired 13 shots total in 40 minutes of action.
"We tried to do something different in the first half, which we played with a false 9 -- not a true forward, but like a forward who is kind of like a midfielder," Alban said. "So we played without a forward for the latter part of the first half. The second half it was almost the same ... it was pretty much to clog their midfield. The result was just them doing long balls."
The Yellow Jackets (5-5-1) were thwarted multiple times by Saints goalkeeper Josh Butler (four saves) in the first half, which paved the way for St. John's to take a 1-0 lead into halftime after a late goal by Luis Tligui.
St. John's (3-2-3) was held to just one shot for most of the opening 40 minutes of action, but the Saints' attack heated up over the final 10 minutes of the first half. Tligui capped the late surge by sneaking a shot just over the goal line off a corner kick in the 36th minute to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
"Set plays are our struggles right now. We've got to work on marking and clearing the ball out," Moxie said.
R-MA quickly answered in the opening minutes of the second half, as senior Bryan Mazzola passed ahead to teammate D'Andre Allen, who chipped a shot over the head of Butler as he charged toward the ball. The ball rolled into the back of the net to tie the match at 1-all in the 43rd minute.
The Yellow Jackets scored off a corner kick midway through the second half to take a 2-1 advantage. Following two failed corner kick attempts that were both cleared out of bounds by St. John's, Mazzola found Herman Mangueira wide open at the top of the penalty box on the third try. Mangueira quickly chipped a shot into the top left corner of the net to give R-MA the lead.
"I was actually trying to get it across the box to the back post, but that wasn't working the whole time. The third one, luckily someone was there at the right time," Mazzola said. "[Mangueira] knew where I was going to play it that time. He read the play perfectly and he got a perfect touch on the ball."
R-MA's lead lasted all of five minutes, however, as St. John's answered with a goal by James Miller to tie the match with 13 minutes left to play.
Just prior to Miller's goal, Saints forward Yan Carmello fell to the ground after colliding with an R-MA defender in the box. Players on both sides stopped as if they were expecting a timeout to be called by the officials, but no whistle came. St. John's Jon Jerge then found Miller at the top of the box, who promptly sent a shot off the hands of R-MA goalkeeper Jahandar Darvish (four saves) and into the back of the net.
"It was kind of weird because I thought we might be stopping play," Miller said. "We just kept playing on. ... I got the ball down the center and I was like, 'OK, I'm going to take the shot.' It ended up going in."
R-MA returns to Delaney Athletic Conference action Thursday with an important home match against Tandem Friends. The Yellow Jackets, currently fourth in the DAC, need a win in order to host a first-round conference tournament game on Friday.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD