CLAREMONT — Stevens’s Jason Stone and Lebanon’s Rob Johnstone are great friends with the same intense soccer pedigree and on Sunday their teams squared off in a dandy of a match under the lights in the city.
Strong play, hard clean tackles, intensity, respect and some sideline banter between fiends was on full display on Monday in a game that extended into overtime before being decided. Playing before a big crowd, the visitors controlled possession while the Cardinals waited for a breakout to grab a goal and relied on their strong back line and keeper to keep things in check.
“I think they controlled 85% of the possession but we played an almost perfect game tonight,” Stone said. “It’s a shame it ended the way it did.”
As the Lebanon midfield and forwards blasted shots on net, the equalizer was Cooper Moote as the Cardinal keeper put up a number of highlight saves.
“That kid is the full package,” Johnstone after the game. “I know him well and he just keeps amazing me.”
After the Cardinals Sam Dalle whistled a shot just wide of the Lebanon net, C. Moote made the first dynamite save of a low blast as he dove and flicked a sure goal away from the far corner. Brother Brady Moote was his usual self tonight as he snuffed out runs on net with a big play coming at the 12-minute mark as Lebanon was building momentum. Highlight save #2 came moments later as C. Moote timed his leap perfectly with an outstretched hand to bat a sure goal into the darkness off the foot of Emmanuel Bello to keep the scoreboard clean.
“We knew we had to keep our defensive shape and we settled in but looked for a break tonight for a scoring chance” Stone said.
That scoring chance came in stoppage time as the Cardinals, off deep throw in from Dylan Chambers found the leaping head of Kayden Laclair. Laclair’s deflection eluded the Lebanon keeper and just danced in the goal box only a few feet from the goal line as the Stevens players couldn’t get a toe on the ball before it was booted safely away as regulation came to an end.
In overtime it was again the Raiders who took charge as C. Moot’s 3rd acrobatic save denied Dan Mladek as the ball had eyes for the low corner as time wound down. With less than two minutes showing on the clock, a loose ball in the Stevens goal ended up being deflected as Mladek’s shot eluded C. Moote for the game winner.
“It was such a beautiful match I hated to see it end that way but I’ll take it” Johnstone said.
The Cardinals will get another shot at Lebanon as they will head up on Wednesday for a rematch.
“I hate to lose but this game was almost a win in my book, our guys played incredible tonight against a Lebanon team that is one of the best in the state” Stone said.