Every time it seemed Riverdale was making a play to really close the gap in its North Central Ohio Soccer Association boys soccer match against rival Upper Sandusky, the Rams had an answer.
Upper Sandusky’s offense exploded for eight goals and won an offensive affair against the Falcons, 8-5, on Thursday night.
Freshmen Taylor Emerick and Brandon Miller combined for five goals to the lead the way.
“They’re small and stuff, but they’re fighters in there and they’ll do anything to score a goal,” Upper Sandusky coach Keith Miller said.
In a stretch of only 1:10 in the first half, the teams combined for four goals, but three of them were by the Rams (4-1, 1-0 NCOSA).
With the match tied at 1, Emerick passed out wide to Austin Pirc, who found just the right angle to send the ball into the top, far corner of the net at the 27:57 mark.
Only 15 seconds later, Miller scored on a pass from Shin Nagahama for a 3-1 lead.
Still in the 13th minute, Caleb Shultis scored for the second time in the match, converting a penalty kick after a foul in the box.
However, Riverdale’s deficit remained at one for less than 30 seconds. Nagahama took a pass back from Miller and put it into the top right corner of the net with 26:47 remaining in the first half, putting the Rams up 4-2.
“We got back to 3-2 and I think we were at one goal for about 27 seconds,” Riverdale coach Jon Hayfield said. “We weren’t communicating and we weren’t working. We rightly got punished.”
The Rams extended the lead to three when Emerick got a cross just past Riverdale goalkeeper Brandon Rall and to Miller for an easy goal in front of the net.
Riverdale (4-1, 1-0 NCOSA) cut its deficit back to two goals only three minutes before halftime when, after two other players faked an attempt, Shultis took and scored on an indirect kick.
Barely five minutes into the second half, Emerick scored on a breakaway for a 6-3 Upper Sandusky advantage. Cody Shuster moved up from his defensive spot and scored with 17:11 remaining.
“They were better than us in every facet,” Hayfield said. “They outworked us. They pulled us all over the field. We couldn’t deal with the balls over the top. We couldn’t deal with the balls in front of us. Way too many gaps and they exploited just about everything we gave them.”
Chad Pever and Aaron Gil scored goals in the final five minutes, with Gil’s goal cutting the deficit back to two with 3:25 remaining.
Emerick completed the hat trick in the final minute on a pass to the right side from Nagahama.
“We’ve been practicing to get the ball to certain spots and working the ball in from different angles and working to get shots,” Miller said.
Riverdale held the lead early, scoring the first goal at the 34:45 mark, but Emerick made sure his team did not trail long, tying it only four minutes later.
The start to this season has left Riverdale looking for answers.
“It’s not just a game like this,” Hayfield said. “This is the fourth time we’ve given up six goals or more. We’ve never been in a situation like this before. I guess we try to look at different people in different positions. I guess we go back and try to drill a little more.”
For Upper Sandusky, it was a sound response to its first loss of the season, a 7-0 setback at Lima Bath on Saturday.
“Sometimes it takes a loss to wake them up a little bit,” Miller said. “Last season it came later than this year. Lima Bath was an eye-opener for my kids. You learn from that and you move on.”
Upper Sandusky had more shots than Riverdale, 17-10, and more shots on goal, 10-6. The quality of the shots on goal led to few saves, only two by the Rams’ Clay Musgrave and just one by the Falcons’ Brandon Rall.
In a one-half, 7-on-7 junior varsity match, Riverdale won, 2-1. Sam Duress had the goal for the Rams.
The Rams host Liberty-Benton at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Falcons travel to Miller City for a match at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
By LONNIE McMILLAN
Score by halves
Riverdale 3 2 — 5
Upper Sandusky 5 3 — 8
R — Shultis (assisted by Beavers), 34:45.
US — Emerick, 30:30.
US — Au. Pirc (assisted by Emerick), 27:57.
US — B. Miller (assisted by Nagahama), 27:42.
R — Shultis (penalty kick), 27:17.
US — Nagahama (assisted by Roeder), 26:47.
US — B. Miller (assisted by Emerick), 19:54.
R — Shultis (free kick), 3:13.
US — Emerick, 34:43.
US — Shuster, 17:11.
R — Pever, 4:43.
R — Gil (assisted by Knedler), 3:25.
US — Emerick (assisted by Nagahama), 0:43.
Shots: Upper Sandusky, 17; Riverdale, 10.
Shots on goal: Upper Sandusky, 10; Riverdale, 6.
Saves: Rall (2); Musgrave (US), 1.
Junior varsity: Riverdale, 2; Upper Sandusky, 1.