Glads Rout ERHS
Eagles Erased 7-0 In Semifinals
STAUNTON – With the East Rockingham High School boys’ soccer team’s season on the line Tuesday, pint-sized senior striker Ashby Moyer quickly got the sense it was only a matter of time before things would go south.
Although the Eagles managed to keep top-seeded Riverheads scoreless for the first 20 minutes of their Conference 36 semifinal game – only the second such scoring drought to start a match this season for the host Gladiators – Moyer’s fears had essentially been realized by halftime.
Riverheads — sparked by senior standout Ryan Kyler’s tiebreaking rebound goal in the 23rd minute – reeled off three scores in eight minutes and didn’t let off in the second half, cruising to a 7-0 victory.
“When they scored the first goal, we just hung our heads and from there, the floodgates really did open,” said Moyer, who finished the season as East Rock’s leading scorer. “They just scored one after the other.”
The shot disparity between Riverheads and ERHS (7-10-1) told the story of Tuesday’s game as much as the final score. The Gladiators (16-1) were credited with 14 shots on goal, while Riverheads goalkeeper Mark Jackson – who was playing with the flu – needed to make only one save to record a shutout.
Sophomore midfielder Eli Knopp led the way offensively for RHS, netting his second hat trick of the season. His first score came in the 25th minute when we broke loose from the pack off a deep send-in pass from junior Liam Lambert and faked out East Rock goalkeeper Ty Reed to score on an uncovered net. Kyler (two goals), sophomore forward James Kasak and senior defender Jacob Ritter accounted for the rest of the Gladiators’ scores.
“That second goal, I could see it; that one kind of hurt a little bit,” Eagles coach Charles Metz said. “But definitely when that third one went in, I could see my guys – some of ‘em started to drop their heads a little bit.
“And that’s why I explained to ‘em at halftime, you can’t let that happen. You gotta try to keep our spirits up. But [Riverheads] just came back out in the second half and just didn’t stop. They were just as relentless.”
Knopp isn’t the Gladiators’ top scorer this season, although coach Mark Husband said he considers his sophomore to be one of his team’s “three first options.”
“We felt really confident coming into this game and with guys like Ryan Kyler and James Kasak playing along with us, it’s no question whether we’re going to score, really,” Knopp said. “They’re so talented.”
East Rock had stuck with Riverheads in the teams’ two regular-season meetings, falling by scores of 3-2 and 4-1. Metz couldn’t pinpoint a specific difference from those outcomes when compared to Tuesday’s rout.
“They continued to put the pressure on and we started to hang our heads, you could tell that they wanted it more at that point,” he said. “They really wanted to continue to just keep burying the ball and put the ball in the back of the net. I think the biggest thing today was just their speed. It really got to us.”
Said Husband: “I’ve always thought that East Rock’s been a really organized team. They always seem to know what they need to do to get the best result that they can. We talked a lot about being patient, because they came out very defensive. And we felt like if we were patient and kept to our game, eventually we would get a couple goals and the game would open up a little bit.”
Halftime score: 3-0 RHS
Shots on goal: RHS 14; ERHS 1
Corner kicks: RHS 1; ERHS 1
Saves: RHS (Jackson) 1; ERHS (Reed) 7
Scoring: ERHS – Kyler 23:00; Knopp 25:00; Knopp (Kyler) 31:00; Kasak 51:00; Ritter (Knopp) 56:00; Knopp (Kyler) 62:00; Kyler 71:00.