By REID TUCKER
Walton’s 3-2 soccer victory over the visiting Freeport Bulldogs came at the tail end of a game with enough twists to make Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame proud.
First of all, it was the team’s Senior Night and the Braves (3-7-2) were short some starters due to either injury or absenteeism. This meant that many of the players who took the field for Walton (in the words of coach Steve Stevenson) “hadn’t seen more than 10 minutes of game time all season.” What’s more, Walton’s top scorer, Ricardo Ramirez, put away all three of the team’s goals effectively on one leg as nagging hamstring pains flared up, preventing him from playing the entire second half.
Braves head coach Steve Stevenson was pleasantly surprised when his much less-experienced players in critical forward and midfield positions performed above and beyond his wildest expectations for the team’s first post-holiday game. In particular he commended the efforts of Jacob Johnson, Kenan Atabey and Allen Lane.
“We were just coming off Christmas break and we didn’t have our subs,” Stevenson said. “Kids who had almost zero playing time were put into pretty critical positions tonight and they were taking care of business. They did a terrific job.”
Stevenson also had high praise for starters Andrew Shipman, who played the entire game without a break, and goalie Stan Standland, who had an impressive 15 saves on the evening.
Both teams scored in the first half, though Ramirez’ hat trick (his third such feat of the season at that time – for a total of 14 goals) put Walton two-up over Freeport’s solitary goal, which came courtesy of Kevin Castro with Bryce Sefo on the assist.
Freeport was eerily unable to convert several close shots into goal during the second half despite taking almost total control of the period. Four minutes into the latter half of play, Christian Graves got around Walton’s defensemen, juked goalie Stan Standland and yet still bounced the shot off the left post. He was followed just minutes later by Castro, who put a shot dead on the center of the net but it deflected off the top bar.
The Bulldogs found their mark at around the 56-minute mark, as Graves, Castro and Tony Cosio coordinated in a close-quarters battle well inside the box to score the team’s second goal of the night. Freeport’s bid to tie the game fell short after a handball call on the Braves landed the Bulldogs with a penalty shot that was deflected off the top bar on a leaping save from Standland. The Braves kept Freeport (3-5) from mounting any more comeback attempts in the closing minutes of the game and edged out the win 3-2….
Read the full story in the Jan. 13, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.