IR drops first season loss to CR in OT

Emotions ran high as a physical duel between Caesar Rodney and Indian River ensued on the pitch this past Tuesday night. But as the final whistle blew, after nearly an hour and a half of soccer, a relieved Caesar Rodney team walked away triumphant, serving the Indians their first loss of the season.

Coastal Point • Jesse Pryor: Zach Izzo scored Indian River’s only goal in IR’s 3-1 loss to Casesar Rodney on Tuesday, Sept. 30.Coastal Point • Jesse Pryor
Zach Izzo scored Indian River’s only goal in IR’s 3-1 loss to Casesar Rodney on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Both teams knew they had their work cut out for them entering Tuesday’s match. The Indians, who had only let up four goals all year, were looking to improve on their undefeated record. Caesar Rodney, having suffered only one loss this season – to Salesianum School in Wilmington – had averaged six goals in each of their first six games. It was inevitable that the result of this game was going to throw an unwelcome wrench in somebody’s spokes.

From the opening whistle, well-timed passes and impressive organization were displayed on both sides of the field. Deadlocked and scoreless at halftime, both Indian River and Caesar Rodney were well aware they had to make some adjustments in the second half. CR’s Wayne Tiller did just that when he scored the first goal of the game, putting the ball past Indian River keeper Kevin Rowe in the 55th minute.

As time ticked on, the Indians retaliated with skill and consistency, as Zach Izzo contributed the equalizer in the 74th minute, thanks to a dish from Chris Connover. Twice this season already, Indian River had tied their opponents at the end of regulation, though both games (Dover and Caravel Academy) ultimately resulted in a tie.

As the first half of overtime began, Caesar Rodney came out swinging, and Tiller put the Riders ahead of the Indians in the 84th minute. With only two minutes left in the second half of overtime, he struck again, sealing the deal for CR.

“This game is always a battle for us,” said Caesar Rodney’s head coach, Darrell Gravatt, “especially when we come down here. River’s a very good and well-coached team.”

The game improved the Riders’ record to 6-1-1.

“We were really pleased with the outcome,” Gravatt added. “Our guys played very well, and [Tiller] really knows how to raise the level at the right time. We just needed to keep on keeping on and we did that.”

Tiller’s hat trick in the game brought his season goals to 17.

“We were playing for the win,” he said. “Winning tonight after the loss to Sally’s shows that we can come back from anything.”

Indian River head coach Steve Kilby, though disappointed, knew his team would have to bring their best game.

“We knew they would be a challenge, and we were really up for it,” he said. “Our objective was to win the midfield, and not let them get the ball, and we did a pretty good job with that. Caesar is a strong team up front, and I think everybody knows that. We certainly are a possession team, but we didn’t do a great job of switching flanks and keeping it on the ground.”

Coming off the team’s first season loss, he had to ready for the team’s quick turnaround at Smyrna on Thursday, Oct. 2, (after Coastal Point press time) then again at Newark on Saturday, Oct 4. “We talked [at halftime] about how we needed to serve the ball quicker,” he said.

“We needed to finish. We put some [shots] over the goal and wide. Our guys had some nice chances.

“Now, we need to look at ourself as a team, and decide if we’re going to learn from this or if we’re going to beat the weaker teams we play and struggle against the better ones.”

Co-captains Cameron Travalini and Zach Izzo are also aware of the actions they have to take to finish out the second half of the season on a strong note.

“We have confidence in our [defensive] backs and they played a tough game. We just need to minimize our mistakes and finish our shots,” Travalini said.

“We knew we had to shut down [Caesar Rodney’s] strikers,” said Izzo. “We didn’t mark up all the time and they got some lucky breaks. Our biggest goal this year is to get to the state tournament, and we need to play our game. You can’t always expect the right calls to be made. You’re not going to win the game if you don’t finish and don’t mark up, and that’s what we need to do.

The Indians, now 5-1-2, could very well face off against Caesar Rodney in the state tournament – something for which Kilby is hoping.

“I look forward to the chance to play them again,” he said. “They’re good, but they’re not a team that’s two goals better than us.”

With their upcoming games, the Indians will return to the three-game week that began their season. This comes after the week-long break the team had, resulting from last Thursday’s cancelation against Sussex Tech, due to inclement weather.

“The break helped us in the long run,” said Kilby. “We healed some nicks and had time to rest.”

With a conference matchup at Smyrna on Thursday, the Indians will have to step up their game to give themselves the shot they need at states.

IR’s next home game is slated for next Tuesday, Oct. 7, when they will host Woodbridge at 7 p.m.