Special to the Rappahannock News
On a summer-warm evening last Friday (March 23) at Panther Stadium, the Rappahannock boys’ soccer team achieved its second win of the season against Skyline High School, 3-2 – only to fall, 8-0, in Manassas Park on Tuesday (March 27).
“We beat Skyline 4-0 last time,” senior Clayton Hatcher said, “but we went down 1-0 really fast. We just came out flat. Then, we knew we had to get something started. Once we were down like that, each of us decided we did not want to lose. We fought through it. We went in thinking it was a guaranteed win, so luckily we pulled through. The last 15 minutes seemed like they’d never end, but we stayed defensively strong.”
From the bench, an injured Smith Cliffton struggled to watch the match. “It was good, but it was scary to watch from the sideline,” he said. “It was much too close. We kept it exciting. In the end of the first half, I knew we were outshooting them, 4-1. Then we started to recover from the way we opened the game.”
“Tanyon Lee scored twice, and Amrit Tamang scored once,” said coach James Lofton, “while Amrit and Case Kramer both came up with assists. Logan Vest and Brian Baumgardner each had noteworthy performances. Brian helped us tremendously on both sides of the ball. He played zealous defense and made some great runs, particularly at the end of the game, on offense. Brian also surprised the crowd with a flip throw-in in the second half. Logan played solid defense at right back and made some very dangerous crosses and passes. I thought they both did very well for us.”
“Tanyon Lee had beautiful volley,” Hatcher said, “and Amrit had a moment where he just dribbled through everyone to make a goal.”
“The last part of the game gave me gray hairs,” Cliffton said. “If they’d gotten a goal, it would’ve tied the game. So, it was a nail-biter. Possession was back and forth. Our winning goal was a penalty kick in the box by Tanyon Lee.”
“Our first two official matches of the Panthers’ soccer season were against Skyline,” Lofton said, “first at their field [the 4-0 shutout], and then at home on Friday. Skyline has about 1,200 high school students and is in the larger AA grouping of Virginia schools, compared to RCHS’s position as one of the smallest schools (fewer than 300 students) in the A group.
“I am pleased that our players have shown that they can hold their own this season against much larger schools, and I’m glad to have gotten the win,” Lofton said. “We want to be standard setters. We want to be consistently striving for excellence.
“I didn’t think the performance versus Skyline was particularly solid. There were flashes of greatness, and a few players played well, but generally we didn’t play that way for 80 minutes. We have grown a lot though, and I think being consistent has a lot to do with time spent together. We are a new group. We’ll continue to develop. And I do think the group is special. They have invariably shown a high degree of character in both games and scrimmages, and I continually see unbounded potential in practice. The key is hard work. We have to work harder than ever, because the teams from Northern Virginia, notably perennial district winners George Mason and Manassas Park, will always demand that we play as we never have before.
On Tuesday, the Panthers traveled to Manassas Park, where they were shut out by last year’s Single A state champion Cougars. “It was a tough match for us,” Lofton said, “but I’m looking forward to playing them again and proving to each other and proving to the community and proving to all the people who matter that we can play with a team as good as Manassas Park.
“Our intention throughout the season will be to overcome the high individual skill level of the northern Virginia players with tight, seamless teamwork and a doggedly determined attitude,” Lofton said. “I think this team will get to the point that it can constantly perform at a high level. The mark of a good team is being able to have an off day and still beat a good team. We’re not there yet, but, with work, we will be.
“Of course,” Lofton said, “the enthusiastic support of the parents and the entire community really helps in enabling the team to keep its spirits and its pace up throughout the season, despite whatever setbacks we may encounter.”
“We ended up losing in a tough fought game,” said coach Andrew Weyer of last Friday’s JV boys 3-0 loss to Skyline at Panther Stadium. “If the balls were bouncing in the net in our favor, it could have been a closer scoring game. The opportunities were there, we just had a little trouble finishing. Our starting sweeper was sick all week, and with an already small roster, the subs were scarce. I felt as if they played better as a team in this game. There was more passing and talking than there had been in the previous one. We were just unlucky with our shots on goal, and their shots on goal went right in.
“On defense, Will Ubben really turned it on in the second half and made several key defensive stops in the backfield,” Weyer said. “He gave it his all in the second half, and I was very proud of him. Steven Hensly, Logan Welch, Gus Norris, Shane L’Amoreaux and Nivardo Loya all had nice attempts on goal; we just couldn’t convert. My ‘man of the match’ goes to Ben Montgomery. Each week, he has taken another step forward in becoming a truly great soccer player. His soccer IQ is rising with each practice, and it truly shows in his progression through the last couple of weeks. I’m very lucky to have him on my defense.”
This Friday night (March 30), JV and varsity Panthers travel to William Monroe.