Greenfield ends Ridgecroft season

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009

WILSON – The dream of a state championship came to a crushing end Friday for the Ridgecroft School boy’s soccer team when they were eliminated from the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association soccer playoffs, 5-3, in overtime at the hands of eventual champion, Greenfield School.

“I really hate it for our seniors,” said a disappointed coach Aron Martin, “because they worked so hard and I feel like it was just taken away from us today.

“To be fair,” he added, “we let some soft goals in and that made the difference when we’d get the lead.”

Leading 2-1 at the half, the Rams surrendered a pair of goals that left the match tied, 3-3, at the end of regulation; then succumbed to the Knights on a pair of goals as Ridgecroft played one man-down for the final six minutes of the match and through both 10-minute overtimes.

Sophomore Michael Byrum scored the Rams’ first two goals and junior Ryan Beggs got the other on a penalty kick in the second half.

Phillip Packard scored a pair of goals for Greenfield and had an assist on the eventual game-winner in overtime. Robert Dandanell and Robert Stallings got the other two goals for the Knights.

The state semi-final marked the third time the two teams had met this season. They played to a 1-1 tie in the first meeting in Wilson back in September and then Ridgecroft stunned the Knights with a 5-4 overtime win in Ahoskie back in October.

It was Greenfield’s only loss in Coastal Plains Independent Conference play all year, and marked the first time the Knights had lost in CPIC play in four years.

“They’d tied us, and they’d beat us,” said Greenfield coach Ben Forbes. “And it’s real hard to beat a team three times in a year because these two teams are as even as you can get.

“We must have had H1-N1 of the brain,” he joked, “because I’ve never had a team get involved in a sideline incident and the whole thing was just stupid.”

Forbes was referring to what had to have been the turning point in the match and may have signaled the end for the Rams: an altercation with under seven minutes to play.

Attempting to dribble in the corner on the Greenfield end of the pitch at the 73-minute mark and set up what might have been the winning shot, Beggs had the ball go off his legs out of bounds in front of some Greenfield fans. From there things escalated on the sidelines between fans from both sides with players from both sides caught in the middle of the fracas.

When the officials sorted everything out and cooler heads prevailed, one player on each team was sent off, but Ridgecroft got the worst of it. Beggs was red-carded forcing the Rams to play 10 players versus 11 for Greenfield and the Knights used the extra-man to their advantage picking up the two scores in overtime.

“The rug was kind of jerked out from under us,” said Martin. “But what was really the death-blow was that last equalizer (goal) even before overtime.

“It’s absolutely horrible,” he added, “that discipline and self-composure can’t rule the day. I know the emotions run high, but you have to remain professional.”

Greenfield opened the scoring six minutes into the match when Stallings delivered a laser from some 25 yards out that sailed over the head of outstretched Rams’ keeper Ethan Phelps and a 1-0 Knights lead..

Byrum then netted Ridgecroft’s first goal at the 32-minute mark thanks to the rebound of a miss off junior Aaron Rock’s free kick.

Byrum would find the twine again with four minutes to play in the first half as he took a crossing pass from Beggs and beat Knights’ goal-keeper Jarred Hinton with a glancing shot that gave the Rams their first lead of the match and they held the one-goal margin through halftime.

Greenfield came back when Dandanell’s goal, assisted by Stallings, drew the Knights even at 2-2 early in the second half.

The Rams reclaimed the lead at the 59-minute mark, 3-2. Knights midfielder Ben Bradley fouled Rock on a breakaway setting up Beggs’ penalty kick. Lining up against Hinton, the lanky red-head took three steps and fired in a shot on the right side of the net leaving the Knights’ keeper sprawled on the turf.

Nursing their 3-2 lead with approximately nine minutes left in regulation, forward Jeremy Jeffers got control of the ball at midfield and swooping down the right side, found Packard, who seemed to appear from nowhere, and hit his teammate with a cross and Packard’s kick sailed over the outstretched arm of Phelps into the net for a 3-3 tie.

Both teams had two chances each for the next four minutes of the half, but they either missed or were stonewalled as the pressure just mounted with each run downfield.

Then came the incident in the corner.

The Rams limped into overtime, but during the first extra period, first Dandanell beat the depleted Rams; and less than a minute later Packard’s header sealed Ridgecroft’s fate.

“It’s really bitter for me,” said Martin, “because I really felt like this was our time.

“When you don’t control the things you can’t control,” he added, “is when I really have an issue.”

NOTES: Six seniors: Phelps, defenders Brian Outlaw and Rob Deans, forward Miles Harrell, midfielders Tyler Hughes and Chase Riddick all played their last match for the Rams; completing a season in which they went 13-5-2. Beggs and Phelps were named to the NCISAA All-State Team.