Rams roll in round one

Published 10:48 pm Friday, October 21, 2011

AHOSKIE – When Michael Jordan would do the truly amazing some used to say, “It’s the Shoes”.

Friday when Ridgecroft soccer player Michael Byrum did the amazing you could have said, “It’s the Shoe-Laces”.

Wearing new bright orange laces that he had to stoop and re-tie several times early in the match the Rams’ senior striker scored a first half hat-trick of three goals en route a four-goal afternoon as the top seed in the independent schools’ playoffs easily manhandled Oakwood School of Greenville, 9-0.

It was Ridgecroft’s tenth straight shutout and eleventh blanking in their last dozen matches.

It was also their second win of the year over Oakwood, having defeated the Eagles at Mike Bryant Field back on September 30 for Homecoming.

In addition to Byrum’s heroics, the Rams (18-1) got a pair goals from Drey Chrysostomou and single scores from Matthew Judge, Julian Becker and even defender Austin Foster.

At his usual post, Foster and the defense helped goal-keeper Jordan Harrell post the team’s 14th shutout of the year.

“It was a good start,” said smiling Rams coach Aron Martin. “I liked the fact that we were very attacking and creative in the first half.

“I warned them at halftime,” he added, “that we’ve got to be guarded defensively as we move forward in the post-season because just one mistake can kill you.”

The killer turned out to be the Rams and they got the game-winner in the first 10 minutes of the contest when Landon Larabee found the streaking Byrum onside near midfield.

From there the fleet-footed senior danced his way around the Eagles’ defense and tickled the twine for the first and only goal Ridgecroft would need.

Seven minutes later at the fifteen-and-a-half minute mark the Rams had a corner kick. Chrysostomou sailed a bender goal-ward and Byrum out-jumped the defense with a beautiful header that was FIFA-worthy in its brilliance.

Byrum picked up his third goal of the half after taking a crossing pass from Shayheim See Persaud and on his shot spinning the ball past the diving Oakwood keeper, Michael Schroeder, and giving the Rams a 3-0 lead.

Eleven of Ridgecroft’s first-half shots on goal and eight of their first 10 tries came off the boot of Byrum0 orange laces and all.

At the 28 minute mark, Chrysostomou got in on the scoring with a breakaway from midfield and zipped a ball into goal past dazzled Oakwood keeper Will Martin.

Chrysostomou then came back with his second goal of the half seven minutes later on a long kick from well beyond the box to make it 5-0.

Then he picked up his second assist of the half as Martin began to substitute late in the half on a pass to Judge giving the Rams a 6-0 lead at the break.

Byrum picked up where he left off as the second half began. Getting an assist from Nikola Jovanovic, Byrum’s final goal of the afternoon game as the ball criss-crossed the sidebars and settled into the back of the net making it, 7-0.

The Rams’ final two goals came as players began to switch as the regular offensive stalwarts shuffled in and out of the game. Becker’s goal came on a breakaway while John Taylor picked up the assist on the goal by Foster.

“My message to them,” said Martin, “is no complacency whatsoever in any situation. Obviously I was pleased with the result and we were able to rest a few guys which is nice and not risk injury.

“Some younger guys who are going to need playoff experience got it today,” he added, “and all-in-all it was a decent performance.”

Next up for the top-seeded Rams in the second round back at Bryant Field on Tuesday will be the winner of Friday evening’s match between Statesville Christian and United Faith of Charlotte.