10/18/07 — Second-half rally lifts Gators past Eagles

View Archive

Second-half rally lifts Gators past Eagles

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 18, 2007 2:49 PM

Before Rosewood's matchup with Spring Creek on Wednesday night, head coach Daniel Mitchell challenged his team to play hard, play together and do the little things.

The Eagles responded well to Mitchell's challenge. The only problem was that response ended at halftime.

Rosewood saw a 2-0 lead and complete control of the game evaporate in the second half. The Gators scored three unanswered goals and escaped Branch Pope Field with a 3-2 Class 1-A Carolina Conference victory.

Spring Creek claimed its first win of the season.

"It was a tale of two halves," Mitchell said. "I thought in the first half we played some of our best soccer we've played all year. We kept the ball in their end and created a lot of opportunities. In the second half, it was a whole different ballgame."

After Rosewood dominated possession and controlled midfield play the first 40 minutes, Spring Creek took charge in the second half.

The Gators managed just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes, but appeared to be re-energized and took charge of the midfield from the outset of the second half. Jose Vasquez's goal from the middle of the 18-yard box just minutes in cut the lead in half at 2-1.

"That boosted our energy level up a lot," Gators' head coach Jesse Craig said. "It was a confidence booster that we needed to go forward and work on some things and get some more goals."

Just minutes later, Vasquez stole the ball from a Rosewood defender, dribbled into the 18-yard box and delivered the equalizer past Eagles' keeper Aaron Keefer.

Meanwhile, Rosewood's offense seemed to lack any resemblance of the same unit that took the field in the first half. Balls that were being won in the first 40 minutes were going the other way, passes weren't as crisp and the scoring chances simply weren't there. The Eagles fired off eight shots on goal in the first half. They managed just three after halftime.

"I don't know if we got fatigued," Mitchell said. "We lost our shape in the second half. We did a lot of chasing, a lot of running. They seemed to put a lot of pressure on us. With us back on our heels like we were in the second half, it's hard for us to get pushed up with numbers because we had to do too much defending."

Midway through the second half, a Spring Creek player was taken down hard near the top of the 18-yard box. After no foul was called, Jose Ventura Ponce gathered the ball and found himself all alone with Keefer. Ponce took only a couple of steps before burying the game winner in the back of the net.

"I just told them what I've been telling them all season," Craig said of his halftime speech. "We're down to where we've only got two games left including this one and I just laid it on the line to them. They came together as a unit, they started talking and started doing the things we've been working on in practice.

"They really wanted it, they put it in the back of the net and it showed."

Rosewood's search for its second win of the year and its first in conference play was just 40 minutes from becoming a reality on Wednesday night. That reality turned into a world of "what ifs" after failing to put away a team that had battled the Eagles to a 1-1 tie earlier this season in Seven Springs.

"We just didn't play with the some aggressiveness and same intensity in the second half," Mitchell said. "I thought the first half we played extremely well. At halftime we talked about focusing on not letting up in the second half. We have to play 80 minutes, we have to play a complete game. We just didn't do that."

Rosewood (1-12-2, 0-4-1 Carolina) entertains North Johnston on Monday, while Spring Creek (1-10-1, 1-3-1) is home against Ayden-Grifton.