When Mansfield Madison invaded West Holmes High School to face the Knights in boys soccer on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Rams were looking to continue a season that has not seen them lose a game while the Knights were trying to keep pace with a terrifying team that is loaded with experience and talent.
That experience and talent led Madison to a 3-0 victory, but it didn’t come easy as West Holmes played a gutsy game from start to finish, including a tremendous first half.
Still undefeated and one of the top teams around in any division, Tim Lord’s Rams present an immense challenge for any team, and the Knights knew that coming into the contest.
Like many teams, West Holmes packed it in defensively against the juggernaut Rams. That led to a lot of shots for Madison, compared to just one shot on goal for the Knights, but Zimmerly knew that would be the case coming into the game.
“I don’t even want to know what the shot totals looked like,” he said after the game.
The Knights actually played a spirited first half that saw them down just 1-0. The goal came when West Holmes didn’t rotate to converge on striker Gavin Huggins, who took a pass at the top of the 18, went up top after the bounding ball and struck a laser into the left side of the net that keeper Brendon Yoder had no prayer of stopping.
That score came in the 16th minute, and while the Rams controlled the ball much of the half, the Knights’ defense held strong and entered the half down by just one goal.
Then came youth night as the young elementary players were introduced, and Lord altered the way his team approached the West Holmes defensive tactics during the break, and that made life tough for the final 40 minutes.
“He made a terrific adjustment at the half and went to four backs and overloaded us on the wings. We went into panic mode,” Zimmerly said. “It was a great move on his part. I thought we had foiled them in the first half, but that adjustment took away what we were doing counter-wise. We did not adjust well.”
Zimmerly utilized several different team sets trying to deal with the attacking Rams’ offense, and he said they are a good enough team to counter whatever defense they face.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Madison took a 2-0 lead when Logan Davis headed in a corner kick, and with seven minutes to play, Dylan Matz delivered on another header to seal the win for the Rams.
Despite lopsided shot totals in favor of Madison, Zimmerly was actually happy with the way his team approached the game and the effort they exerted in playing hard for 80 minutes.
“This was actually a good step forward for us,” Zimmerly said. “You’re not always going to be the better team, so you have to learn how to defend, and we were so much better tonight. That adjustment they made though, that really threw a monkey wrench into things. But we came out and competed well tonight. We have a talented group, but we need to work on the mental aspect of the game, and tonight I felt like we did a better job of that.”
Lord said he knew the Knights would never relent and told his team that at the intermission. “It was a tight game for a long time, and I told the guys that they aren’t going to stop fighting, and they didn’t, so credit them for playing hard.”
Lord said this experienced team of seniors and juniors has been together for three years, and they understand how to play the game as a unit. He also said they are good at learning from their past mistakes, and he said in a scoreless tie against Mt. Vernon, his team faced a similar style of play. In that game they peppered the goal with shots, but they were not quality shots. On this night he said his team learned they needed to be more patient and find better looks.
“We do a lot of possession drills, and tonight we moved the ball well and waited for our opportunities,” Lord said. “This team can move the ball well, and we didn’t force anything tonight. We were patient, and it paid off. This is an experienced group who was forced to play together at a very young age because all we had was youth a couple years ago, and they are doing a great job. I feel like there are times when I don’t have to do a whole lot of coaching.”
The win improved Madison to 8-0-2 while the Knights dropped to 3-6-1 on the season.