RIDLEY TWP. – On the surface, Ridley’s 6-4 loss to Avon Grove Saturday wasn’t exactly earth-shattering or anything to be too concerned about.
It wasn’t a Central League loss, though the Green Raiders would have preferred to take home the Relentless Cup on their turf. It wasn’t particularly bad. Avon Grove has the potential to be the District One champion this year, so it’s a good barometer for where the Green Raiders stand.
But at the same time, it’s never fun being knocked out from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Avon Grove came out firing early and despite a strong game from Tommy McDermott, the Green Raiders could never quite catch up after falling behind, 5-0.
“(Saturday) they were just a better team,” said Mike Crowley, who committed to Cabrini Friday night. “They came out fired up, we weren’t ready. We came out lazy and they stuck their goals in the beginning. They worked together better as a team than we did. That’s what we’ve got to improve on.”
Ridley’s style of play is not conducive to playing from behind. The Green Raiders’ slow, methodical offense is great if they’re up, but when they’re down by more than a goal, it can be a problem. Additionally, there is a bunch of really good scoring options like Crowley, Kelton Heverly, Lou Harrison and Dalton George when he returns from an injury, but there’s not one elite scorer that can be called upon time and time again.
Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Depth is hard to stop and it’s something every coach loves. Sometimes, it’s a bad thing because no one knows who’s going to take over. But Ridley will still be able to score enough goals to win, especially with a stingy defense and one of Delco’s best goalies to make sure those goals stand up.
Nick Eufrasio (Marquette) was really good against a Red Devils team with a lot of offensive threats and with McDermott as the backbone to everything, that’s as good a close D-man/goalie combo as anyone else in the county. The Green Raiders did an exceptional job of slowing down Avon Grove after that initial 5-0 flurry, but if they’re going to be a legitimate Central League contender, those 5-0 runs can’t happen.
“We beat ourselves with those goals in the beginning,” Eufrasio said, “and we need to put more points up on the board. It’s not just the offense. It’s everyone. We’ve got to play as a team. We definitely didn’t come ready to play and they were fired up from the start and we weren’t, so it comes down to that. This is a learning process right now. It wasn’t a Central League game, so we’re going to learn a lot from it.”
McDermott’s status among Delco’s elite goalie is no longer really in question. He’s fantastic and will likely battle Radnor’s Brendan Manderack for All-Central honors and whomever gets first team should likely earn an All-American nod. How he didn’t get bigger looks is beyond me, but Chestnut Hill is getting an absolute steal. He moves well, clears well, leads the defense and his positioning is exceptional.
Ridley coach Kevin Ellers‘ system is geared upon slowing things down offensively and running a stifling defense, so he’s got the weapons to make it work. If the Green Raiders’ offensive game can get up to the same level as their elite defense, there’s little doubt that they’ll challenge for the Central League title. Odds are that the league champion will not go undefeated, so why can’t it be Ridley?
The Green Raiders’ offense worked at its best when it was able to take advantage of Avon Grove’s quick slides with quick ball movement. Sure, so does everyone else’s, but Ridley worked some clean looks and Matt Borchert‘s brilliant setup of Brian Sinex is exactly the type of play the Green Raiders would like to see more of. Borchert set it all up with a spin move and then fed a wide-open Sinex, who made no mistake. There will be pressure on those midfielders to make things happen, so much will rely on them.
Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that Ridley will be just fine and just might be the team atop the Central League standings.
– MATT CHANDIK