With a 3-2 pre-season record, Panther men’s soccer charges into regular Bull Run District play this week.
Last Thursday (April 7), Rappahannock High School traveled to Skyline in Front Royal for a showdown with the Hawks. The Panthers brought home an exciting 2-1 victory.
“Before the game, I made sure the guys knew we were playing a team we should’ve beat last time,” coach Matt Gillispie said. “When we met before, we outshot them 2-1, so I told the team that we want to go to Skyline and get back what we should’ve had the first go-round.”
Once in Hawks territory, Gillispie made some fresh position changes. “Case Kramer stepped up and went into center mid position. Clayton Hatcher went up top as striker along with Amrit Tamang. John Letsen took over the left back position for Andrew Oyster who re-injured his ankle during warm-ups.”
The Panthers pounced on the Hawks in the first half. “We completely dominated,” Gillispie said. “We changed our formation to a 4-4-2 with a diamondback formation, so I needed another defender. So, Brian Baumgardner came in as stopper — a position he had never played. He did a great job.
“We possessed the ball 75, 80 percent of the time and outshot them. Our first goal was an assist by Alex Jung that allowed Hatcher to find the back of the net. I was just as excited as he was. Soccer is like . . . well, when you score a goal, you feel like you’ve just overcome everything.”
Junior Clayton Hatcher echoed his coach’s enthusiasm. “In the first half, we went up 2-0 very early. That’s happened to us before, so we just kept on telling each other to keep up the intensity. I had a great goal.”
Following Hatcher’s net magic, Rappahannock got a free kick at the left-hand corner just outside the 18. “Lee sent off a missile,” Gillispie said. “I saw him kick the ball. When it left his foot, I could tell it was going to be a low, driving shot that would go in. It was a spectacular shot. He said he was setting up for the kick, saw a lane and went for it. That ball had to thread the needle to go into the side net. Their keeper was big, tall, and really good. Tanyon hit it just right.”
At the end of first half, the Panthers held a 2-0 lead and started off the second half with possession. “We were attacking very well,” Gillispie said. “Then, they hit a counterattack and their striker took a shot on goal. The other team pulled off a shot, but we had Dennis McGillivray in as keeper. As he was leaning back, he deflected it out. The linesman didn’t make the call, but the center ref made the call of a goal. It was questionable, but it counted.”
Hatcher recalled the impact of the Hawks’ goal. “Nothing is more chaotic than 2-1,” he said. “They had all the momentum then, but our defense locked them out, and we won the game.”
About the Panthers’ first district game in Strasburg Wednesday (April 13), Gillispie said, “We have high hopes of starting off with a positive note.”
“We’re going in hungry for a goal,” said Gillispie.