Rams advance to finals

Published 11:15 pm Friday, August 19, 2011

AHOSKIE – There is no cooling trend in the forecast for Ridgecroft – at least not this early.

Instead it’s another hot start for the Rams who won the Friday opener of their sixth annual Ridgecroft Invitational Soccer Tournament before a gracious crowd that braved 90-degree temperatures at Mike Bryant Field.

Any sweating from the fans didn’t come from what they witnessed on the field as the home team triumphed, 6-0, over Gaston Prep/KIPP Pride and moved on to the Saturday championship match against Trinity of Durham/Chapel Hill.

The Lions won the second match of the day, 3-0. over Cape Fear Christian Academy of Erwin.

Ironically, both Ridgecroft and Trinity were in the Final Four of last season’s independent school’s state championship series.

Seniors Drey Chrysostomou and Michael Byrum accounted for all the Rams scoring with three goals apiece.  Junior goal-keeper Jordan Harrell, aided by the strong Ridgecroft defense, helped post the shut-out.

“It was not bad for our home opener,” said Rams Head Coach Aron Martin.

The win moved Ridgecroft to 2-0 on the young season after having posted a 3-2 win last week against Northeastern High School at Elizabeth City.

“The main thing,” he added, “is that we have to maintain our shape defensively and offensively we have to finish our chances.”

The Rams had chances aplenty, outshooting the Panthers in the first half alone, 17-2.  These were not tries off the edge of the shooter’s foot that went awry, but actual firing at the net.

“That’s going to kill us during the season,” said Martin, “because there’s going to be matches during the season where we won’t create as many chances.

After a scoreless first thirteen and a half minutes of the match, KIPP committed a foul in front of the box and the Rams were awarded a penalty kick.  Chrysostomou did the honors for the home team and careened in a shot past the Panthers goalie for a 1-0 lead.

Perhaps that served to fire up the Rams because less than three minutes later, Byrum intercepted a wayward pass near midfield and outran the defenders for a breakaway goal to make it 2-0.

From there for the next five minutes Ridgecroft was not as sharp offensively.  The Rams attempted four shots, but two were saved on tremendous defensive play by KIPP sophomore keeper, Devon McDonald, while another shot went wide of the net and still another sailed over the crossbar.

However, 21 minutes in, Byrum struck for his second goal of the afternoon and at the midway point in the half Ridgecroft had staked itself to a 3-0 lead.

For the next 11 minutes, Ridgecroft outshot the visitors, 8-1, with KIPP’s lone attempt at a score coming on a well-defended tap penalty kick.

Byrum scored his first assist of the afternoon when he found Chrysostomou in the corner at the 32nd minute for the fourth goal of the match and Ridgecroft carried a 4-0 mark into the break.

Though the Rams executed much crisper in the second half, the scoring did not come as easily.  Byrum collected his third and final goal of the day at the 49th minute to make it, 5-0, and then assisted on a “trey for Drey” as Chrysostomou closed out the scoring with a hat trick of his own.

“We’re working hard and I have to applaud our effort,” said Panthers (0-1) coach Andrew Helms.  “We’ve only been practicing together for two weeks.

“There were times in the second half,” he added, “when we really showed our shape and our composure, and then our legs got tired and we gave up those last two goals.”

“Overall I’m pretty pleased,” said Martin.  “We had a grueling pre-season and we’re not so reliant on just a couple of people. The more people we get involved the more of a combined team effort we’ll have.

“I’m liking what I’m seeing,” he concluded, “because the chemistry is good with this team and I’m very, very excited about the possibilities.”