GREENVILLE – Less than a minute into Friday night’s game Logan Comer gave East Rockingham reason to believe an upset was possible.
The junior forward scored with just 39 seconds elapsed in the boys’ soccer match versus Riverheads and the Eagles were quickly up 1-0.
Despite some key losses due to graduation last season, Riverheads has high hopes this year with Virginia Tech-bound James Kasak returning along with Eli Knopp and Tristan Robson. All three seniors want a state championship after coming up just short the last two years — losing in the state finals in 2014 and the state semifinals in 2015.
“All three of those, the big guys … they all want to make this one count,” said Riverheads coach Scott Harrison. “This is their final year so they put a lot of pressure on themselves. The rest of the team is trying to measure up to try to help them out. I wouldn’t say it’s pressure as much as they’ve really got that goal that’s weighing on them.”
Riverheads opened the season with three fairly easy victories — a pair of wins against Nelson County by a combined 11-2 score and an 8-0 blanking of Buffalo Gap. Friday night’s win, improving the Red Pride to 4-0, wasn’t quite as easy, but it was still a win, with Riverheads edging the Eagles 3-2.
Harrison said the quick goal against his team didn’t affect his players.
“We have confidence in our play,” he said. “It’s a long game. What can happen is that can lull the opponent down a little bit, give the a little more confidence.”
What can take the confidence away though are back-to-back goals by the other team. That’s what Riverheads did after finding itself in the early 1-0 hole.
At the 29:14 mark James Kasak — who else? — evened the match with Riverheads’ first score. Kasak was coming in from the left side of the goal and slid a shot past the keeper into the lower right corner. Forty-five seconds later Jason Burch put Riverheads in front to stay.
That’s the way things remained — Riverheads leading 2-1 — until halftime. Harrison told his team at the break that what gave East Rock its fast start was the emotion the Eagles were showing. He was proud of the way his Gladiators answered and told his players that those two goals ended some of that enthusiasm the Eagles were showing early in the match.
Riverheads went in front 3-1 when Eli Knopp scored with 16:28 remaining in the match.
“It’s one of those things you’ve just got to take it the way it is,” said East Rockingham coach Al Torres-Cruz of watching his team go from just a goal down to two goals behind. “You’ve got to just keep hustling, keep working it. Three to one can turn into three to two and we were this close to tying it.”
His player did keep hustling and, with 8:41 left, Michael Dean scored to get the Eagles to within a goal. East Rock had a couple of chances late to tie the game, but came up short both times.
Harrison is not a fan of two goal leads. He thinks it can give a team a false sense of confidence. That’s what he believes happened after Knopp’s goal.
“Two goals, that makes me nervous,” said Harrison. “So we made some adjustments trying to keep that two-goal [lead] and it caught us. That’s how they got that goal back.”
Harrison said they recovered quickly after the Dean goal and defense down the stretch made the difference.
Riverheads is at home Tuesday against Page County.
The boys will start at 5:30 and will be followed by the girls in a varsity doubleheader.
Riverheads jayvee boys tied East Rock 1-1 Friday. Joseph Huffer scored the only goal for the Gladiators