By Coach Lenny
Emerson kicked off the 2014 season on Tuesday, hosting Washtenaw Christian Academy. The 2014 Emerson team is the biggest ever, with 36 kids on the roster, but this day, with the 8th grade away at camp, 18 Eagle 6th and 7th graders took on a Wildcats team with some unusually large middle school students. Many of the Eagle forwards were dwarfed by their WCA defenders.
Emerson controlled the ball and tempo for most of the first half, putting pressure on the WCA defense and creating numerous scoring chances. However, the Wildcats were the ones that capitalized on their lone opportunity, in the 20th minute. Mitchell, their impressive mid-fielder, who was otherwise well contained, especially by Soleil Ponce de Leon, slipped through the Eagle defense and beat keeper Gabe Seir to the short side. Aside from that one breakaway, though, Gabe smothered every other Wildcat attempt, including throughout the second half, with the pressure on and the Eagles fighting to come back.
Emerson kept at it in the second half, spread the field better, and Jack Finnegan took advantage of the Wildcats having difficulty getting the ball out of their 18-yard box, putting his shot over the reach of the keeper and under the crossbar, to tie the score at 1-1, just a few minutes in. Play then went back and forth for a while, Emerson getting the best of it. Mitchell started to wear down from the pressure of the Emerson defense, and Zack Kubisiak, the Eagle center-mid, started to create more problems for the Wildcat defense. On a decisive move, followed by a shot in the box, Zack caused a very large but very tired WCA defender to block the shot with a hand-ball. Austin Sarns, who did yeoman’s work anchoring the Eagle defense all day, came up to take the resulting penalty kick, and blasted it past the WCA keeper, who may have been a little intimidated by the leg Austin had shown throughout the game. From then on, the game continued as it had earlier, Emerson getting the best of it, and Gabe cleanly handling the few balls that came his way, and the Eagles had the win.
The 2-1 victory put to rest the worries of the 6th and 7th graders, who feared going up against WCA’s big 8th graders, and with no Eagle 8th graders at that. While there is certainly room for improvement in certain aspects of the game, the kids learned that a strong team effort, and playing within our simple system, can yield fine results, even against older, bigger opponents.