Judges burn Warriors in second half
STEPHENS CITY – Sherando’s boys soccer team was right where it wanted to be – right where it needed to be – at halftime of Monday’s home match with unbeaten John Handley. Then the Warriors weren’t.
The Judges pounced on Sherando in the second half, striking for five goals over the final 24 minutes as they turned a one-goal advantage into 6-0 rout against their Northwestern District/Conference 21 West rivals.
“We’re just not playing smart soccer still,” said Warriors coach Pat Anderson, whose team hasn’t won a match since April 6. “Once we figure that out we’ll be all right, but they’re either gonna learn the hard way or not learn at all. We’ve just gotta play smarter soccer. We gave them too many easy balls to win and I mean they just countered on every single one of them. They finish well and you can’t serve them like that.”
A defensive miscue cost the Warriors (2-5-2) in the first half, as a Sherando defender whiffed on Brinn Enders’ pass and allowed Seth Bridgeforth to score the game’s first goal on a breakaway 22 minutes into the match, but Sherando’s defense – led by keeper Brandon Teets’ nine saves – kept the damage to a minimum for nearly three-quarters of the game.
Handley (11-0) broke that theme with 24 minutes to play, when freshman John Avant, about 45 yards downfield along the sideline, sent a pass that crossed the field and managed to find its way through the penalty box to the foot of Christopher Neragis on the far post. Nerangis converted the short shot for a 2-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Bridgeforth gathered the ball following a Raheem Smith header near midfield and pushed the ball downfield before tapping a pass to Jesus Rojo-Trejo, who scorched a lining shot from the top of the box that found the back of the net.
“They seemed to press higher,” Anderson said of Handley. “… You get more numbers up and again it affected us because we weren’t getting our marks or keeping our shape.”
Judges head coach Cosmo Balio said he addressed making “minor adjustments of attacking out wide” during halftime, a piece of advice that appeared to sit well with his players.
“When we talk like that, and the kids respond, I just said to them whatever we said … let’s cap that and let’s put that in so we can come out on fire like that (at the beginning of the game),” Balio said. “I thought they were a class act tonight. We scored some pretty goals.”
Handley would go on to strike for three more goals in the final seven minutes of the match.
Nathan Langford scored his first goal of the night while converting on a breakaway off Saber El Abani’s assist with seven minutes to play. With three minutes remaining, Norman Au sent a cross pass to the left post that led to Smith’s goal and a 5-0 lead.
Langford put the cap on Handley’s victory with a spectacular goal on a diving header off Enders’ cross in stoppage time, a score Balio called his “goal of the year” nomination.
The Judges enjoyed a 20-11 advantage in shots, including a 12-6 edge in the second half.
Sherando’s best looks on goal came on a pair of Sean Buono shots in the final 40 minutes. Early in the second half, Buono rifled a 22-yard shot that sailed just wide left. Buono tried again with 11 minutes to play, but his 15-yard dart was blocked by Judges keeper Haniel Lopez-Cajero (five saves).
Monday’s victory was the fifth straight shutout for Handley, and the win carried a little more weight for Balio, who mourned the death of his brother last week. Monday’s match marked his first with the Judges since he learned of his brother’s passing on April 18.
“They said, ‘Coach we’re glad to have you back tonight and this one’s for you and your brother.’ When I hear stuff like that from high school kids (I get) a little emotional. And our crowd was great,” Balio said. “So for me, this was fun. I’ve gotta go and do some other stuff, go back up to New York to deal with that stuff, but it was good to get away for a night and kind of watch them rule. And they did. They did.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org