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Rams win eighth in a row

AHOSKIE – Ridgecroft soccer coach Aron Martin doesn’t have to use clich\u00E9s like &uot;Ram-tough&uot; to get his Ridgecroft soccer team pumped up for their Coastal Plains Independent Conference season. 

But after notching their eighth straight soccer win Tuesday, a 2-1 victory over Faith Christian, maybe these guys should start believing it.

&uot;We’re not a finished product by any means,&uot; said Martin after the one-goal win. &uot;But when you can find a way to win matches that’s really all that matters.&uot;

Though the match was scoreless through the first 30 minutes, the Rams easily controlled the contest, leading in possessions against the Patriots almost two-to-one. 

Junior midfielder Hanes Joyner had a pair of his shots sail just wide of the goal. Striker Josh Morris thought he’d beaten Faith goalie Tyler Hendricks on a breakaway, only to have the Patriots keeper snuff the attempt just before it reached the net. 

Meanwhile, Faith Christian had taken just two shots for the game.

&uot;Our eighth game,&uot; said a frustrated Patriots coach Harold Rackley, &uot;and it’s like we’re still playing our first game. (A lot of) cobwebs. They killed us in the middle.&uot; 

By keeping his defenders back, Rackley pretty much surrendered the midfield to the Rams and they took advantage.

Midfielder Chase Riddick had four of Ridgecroft’s first-half attempts, but was turned away.   Finally at the 31:01 mark in the period, Joyner slipped a defender and sent a pass ahead to a streaking Miles Harrell on the wing for the first goal of the game and gave Ridgecroft a 1-0 lead with less than five minutes to play in the half. 

At the end of the period, Ridgecroft had tallied a dozen shots to a mere three for Faith Christian, an advantage of four-to-one.

&uot;In the first half we passed the ball really well,&uot; said Martin, &uot;but our intensity was just not what it typically is.  The score would’ve been more if we had finished some of our chances.&uot; 

The Rams came out in the second half in the same attack mode as the first period, but were held scoreless early. 

Six minutes into the period it looked as if the Patriots might tie the score when Clayton Kelley found teammate Lollis Griffin in front of the box, but Rams goalie Ethan Phelps stretched out to make a diving save and preserved the shutout.

It was still a one-goal advantage for the Rams at the 53rd minute mark when a controversial play occurred in front of the goal. Ridgecroft had a shot rebound off the post, and it appeared Faith’s Hendricks was about to fall on it, but the official ruled that Josh Morris’s snippet of a kick had crossed the line.

He awarded the goal to Ridgecroft for a 2-0 lead for the Rams with much of the crowd and both teams somewhat puzzled at the call. 

Nonetheless, it was a two-goal lead for the home team.

The Rams might have recorded a shutout, but with time winding down, the Patriots’ Griffin found teammate Jordan Powell.

What appeared a scoreless game for the Rams suddenly was within a goal of a tie with the score now 2-1. 

But time and possessions may’ve been to Ridgecroft’s advantage, because the clock ran out two minutes later, with the Patriots unable to get another shot off.

Ridgecroft recorded their third conference win of the season and eighth of the year.

&uot;We certainly can’t have lapses and be panicky and piecemeal (on defense) late in games, because late in the season, and even now, that can be costly,&uot; said Martin.  &uot;But they work hard in practice, and sometimes you take wins no matter what shape, fashion, or form it comes in.  I’m pleased with it.  I’m very pleased with this group.&uot;

Ahead for the Rams, who are now 8-0 and 3-0 in the CPIC, is their third match-up of the year with rival Lawrence Academy in Merry Hill on Thursday. Ridgecroft took the first two meetings between the two.

If they manage to record a third victory and defeat Oakwood School Tuesday, they’ll remain unbeaten heading into next week’s huge matchup with CPIC heavyweight Greenfield.

&uot;I’m not looking past Lawrence by any means,&uot; cautioned Martin, &uot;because they’ve caused us some problems this year certainly, and we’re playing at their place.   So we’ve got to focus on Lawrence solely, but next week is a big one with Greenfield.&uot;