NEPTUNE BEACH – The much-ballyhooed clash of titans; undefeated Fleming Island and Fletcher high school boys soccer squads, turned into two halves of attack, scrum and “just-misses” with Golden …
NEPTUNE BEACH – The much-ballyhooed clash of titans; undefeated Fleming Island and Fletcher high school boys soccer squads, turned into two halves of attack, scrum and “just-misses” with Golden Eagle goalie Omar Zermeno thwarting a Fletcher surge in the final minutes to preserve a 2-2 non-district tie.
“We couldn’t clear the ball in the first half and that left us vulnerable in front of the goal,” said Fleming Island coach Mike Green, who finishes his rookie season as Golden Eagle coach at 17-0-3. “We needed to generate more offense if they were going to be able to get close to our goal.”
Fletcher, unbeaten in district 3-4A at 5-0-0 and 18-0-2 overall, struck fast and furious in the first half after the first 10 minutes of play saw Fleming Island getting forwards Reed Davis and Lucas Hauth in the goal box of the Senators but unable to get a ball past 6-foot-6 goalie Matthew Doyle-Sochan.
Fletcher played a patient midfield game awaiting for an opening and, after the 20 minute water break, the Senators were knocking on the goal door with two free kicks and a pair of corner kicks putting pressure on Zermeno and the Golden Eagle defense.
At the 17 minute mark, Fletcher got the ball in front of Zermeno in a scrum that saw the ball ping-pong through a maze of players before forward James Schaefer found himself alone in front of Zermeno with about eight feet to the goal. Zermeno eyeballed Schaefer for a moment before Schaefer buried the ball in the left side of the goal.
“He has to grab those loose balls and clear the front,” said Green.
Two minutes later, Fletcher again found themselves in a scrum in front of the goal after a Zermeno save and the Senators again took advantage of the loose ball for the second goal of the half.
With a push to score with near 11 minutes to the half, Fleming Island got a yellow card to Davis on a zealous sideline interaction to give the Golden Eagles a desperate look as the half loomed.
Davis had one final opportunity to put Fleming Island on the scoreboard as Doyle-Sochan misplayed a free ball just outside the 18 yard line, whiffed on a clearing kick and left Davis alone in front of the goal, but past the loose ball.
With four minutes to halftime, defender Noah Hamlett punched a free kick deep into a player gathering in front of Doyle Sochran, but the Golden Eagles could not get a foot on the ball despite three headers that kept the ball in play for what seemed an eternity.
After the halftime break, extended because of Fletcher’s senior night festivities, Fleming Island roared downfield with just three minutes off the clock with Hauth taking a center pass from Garret Godfrey that he spun and pounded toward Doyle-Sochran. Doyle-Sochran made the save but did not catch the ball. Davis, trailing the play, picked up the loose ball and buried it into the net for his 52nd goal of the season to put the game at 2-1 with just under 38 minutes to go.
“We knew we were knocking on the door with the missed opportunities in the first half,” said Green. “They came out a little flat, probably from the halftime stuff, and we got a break.”
Just two minutes later, Hauth again found the mark in front of the Fletcher goal and this time found the net to tie the game at 2-2 with 35 minutes to go.
Ten minutes later, Davis again got a seam and launch a hard shot that caromed off the cross bar in a near miss. Godfrey was able to force a corner kick on the rebound.
Fleming Island could not convert on the corner, but earned three more in the next two minutes to keep the ball in Fletcher territory despite not being able to get a goal.
With three minutes left in the game, Fletcher made the final surge to get a gamewinner, but Zermeno cleared one of two cornerkicks and got a key save on a close encounter right in front of the net with a minute to go.
Fleming Island got a final breakaway with Davis finding Godfrey downfield, but Godfrey’s shot went wide left.
Both teams will be hosting their respective district tournaments this week with a possible rematch in the region semifinals in two weeks.