NEWBERRY — Crescent High School brought a strong team from Anderson County to face the Bulldogs in second-round playoff action Friday night.
The one day-delay avoided Thursday’s drenching rain, but a brisk wind was present and at times, seemed to be blowing in both directions.
With a 14-4 record, Crescent displayed a ball-control game, similar to the Bulldogs, although the Tigers rely more on power than quickness and tight passing. In the first five minutes, each team had corner kick opportunities thwarted by the opposing defense. Then with 33:51 remaining in the half, Jose Lozano sent a pass down the left lane to Erick Arroyo, who turned the corner past a defender and placed the ball in the corner of the net for a 1-0 Bulldog lead.
Newberry played the role of aggressor for the next 12 minutes, working in for a couple of corner kicks and close shots and, 18 minutes into the contest, managed to punch the ball up the middle of the field. As the Crescent defense tried to retreat and as the Tiger keeper came out of the goal, Logan Ransdell raced past the defenders and met the keeper just outside the box. Ransdell forced his way through and put the ‘Dogs on top 2-0.
The Tigers kept using their power to work the ball down field and, with 11:51 remaining it looked as if they would be rewarded when a strong throw-in was followed by a quick kick. Newberry keeper Alberto Rodriguez timed his jump perfectly and sent the ball over the goal.
Crescent came close on the following corner kick, but the ball sailed just-wide of the net. From that point on, both teams were able to craft scoring opportunities. With 5:30 left on the clock, Joel Alvarez drew a foul just past mid-field. Ernesto Bautista lobbed the free kick into the box where Lozano battled a Tiger defender for the head shot. The rebound deflected into the net for a 3-0 Newberry lead.
The gritty Tigers continued with their game plan and were rewarded with 3:47 on the clock when the Bulldogs committed a foul 40yards from the goal.
The free kick was a power-shot that sailed to the scrimmage line five yards out where a Crescent forward muscled his way to head the ball into the net to make it 3-1. The Tigers were energized and, during an exceptionally long stoppage period (due to several injury clock-stoppages), they attacked multiple times.
On one nicely placed Tiger free kick, Rodriguez was able to bat the ball down where it ran parallel to the goal for several feet before Bautista was able clear it for the Bulldogs. The half ended at 3-1.
The second half started on a similar note when, barely two minutes in, another strong Tiger throw-in was headed toward the net. Rodriguez got a glove on it and Alvarez cleared it inches from the line. Two minutes later, Crescent’s persistence paid off as a forward was fouled in the box. Rodriguez dove to get a mitt on the resulting penalty kick, but the ball deflected into the net to cut the score to 3-2.
While the Tigers strength kept them competitive, the Bulldog defense proved up to the challenge and all of Crescent’s scores for the night came off of free kick and penalty kick opportunities.
For the remaining 36 minutes, Newberry controlled the mid-field and the game. With 33 minutes left, Alvarez intercepted a pass at mid-field and laid the ball up for a streaking Arroyo who put the ‘Dogs up 4-2.
With 10 minutes left, Victor Mendoza led Lozano on the left side. Lozano worked past three Tiger defenders and threaded a pass to Arroyo on the right. Arroyo beat his defender and struck past the keeper for a 5-2 Newberry lead.
Three minutes later, the Bulldogs stopped a Crescent attack and cleared to Arroyo at midfield. Arroyo worked his way through several Tigers before being tripped in the box by a lagging defender. Lozano placed the ensuing penalty kick in the net for a 6-2 lead.
To their credit, the Tigers continued to claw their way back and drew a foul outside the box with 4:15 remaining. The free kick was lobbed into the box where a waiting Crescent forward headed into the goal to cut the lead to 6-3.
The ‘Dogs also refused to let-up and, during stoppage play, Alvarez drove down the field on the right and was fouled hard just outside the corner of the box. Lozano nailed the free kick directly at the Tiger keeper who could only manage to deflect it as it sailed into the net.
The 7-3 victory improves the seventh-ranked Bulldog’s record to 15-3. Newberry travels to second-ranked Indian Land on Saturday for round three.