“It’s always a good matchup between Bradley and ourselves. Coach Blackmon does a real good job with them, and they always play real hard. We knew it was going to be physical coming in just because of that,” Raider head coach John Brose said.
The Raiders came out on top in Tuesday night’s extremely physical contest, dominating the Bears on their own field 6-1.
“It’s just frustrating. I have respect for coach Brose and they run a great program, but I think that’s the worst game we’ve played in three years,” Bears head coach Tucker Blackmon remarked.
The match started out with both sides coming at each other with equal force, trying to gain the upper hand. Bradley was able to prevent Cleveland from getting comfortable in its style of play for the majority of the first half.
Jesse Jones was able to swing the momentum in Cleveland’s favor 27 minutes into the match, getting the ball up and over the Bradley goalkeeper’s head for his team’s first goal, which was assisted by Brandon Romero.
The Raiders had another scoring opportunity thanks to a penalty kick following a questionable defensive play by the Bear goalie, but were unable to get the ball in the net.
With just under three minutes remaining in the first half, Rosmel Gallo got the ball away from the Bradley defenders, and a pass to Alex Rodriguez led to a beautiful breakaway play. Rodriguez was able to get the ball past the Bears’ goalie, adding a second tally to the scoreboard.
Less than a minute later Anfernee Avila was able to set up Rosmel Gallo for the Raiders’ third goal.
“We were able to put a lot of pressure on their backs and take it off their foot to get a lot of good, early opportunities on goal,” Brose explained. “It took us awhile to break through, but once we were able to get a couple goals at the end of the first half, I think we settled down and started to play more of our game, possessing the ball and getting forward with some good runs.”
Jones, with an assist from Jonathan Collins, added a fourth point for the Raiders five minutes into the second half.
Fifteen minutes later Collins was able to got a goal of his own, with Avila getting his second assist of the night.
“It was just one of those games where we weren’t proactive, we were reactive. Instead of running onto balls we were waiting until it was played and then running onto it,” Blackmon said. “Our whole system is built off moving off the ball. We did absolutely none of that, and it showed. They took it to us.”
The Bears were able to get one goal thanks to Mason McHann, but it was too little, too late to garner any momentum for the home team.
Mike Kanarski added one final goal for Cleveland in the final minutes of play, with the assist coming from Kameron Dunn.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s one game,” Blackmon stated.
Bradley had a rough go of it overall, losing three starters as the evening progressed, one of them before the opening kick.
During warmups a starter went down with a knee injury and toward the end of the first half another starter had to leave the field due to an ankle injury. Another starter had to be taken to the hospital during the second half, after an accidental collision with a Cleveland player resulted in a frightening landing on his neck.
For the Raiders the victory was much needed after they lost their first district game to McMinn County and also fell to Lenoir City last week.
“We had a really rough week last week so it was good to bounce back this week and start playing good soccer again. I was real proud of our guys and the way they came out,” Brose said.
Cleveland will be in tournament action running from Thursday through Saturday this week. Their next district game will be at Ooltewah next Tuesday.
The Bears will have the chance to redeem themselves and get a district win when they play at McMinn County on Thursday. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
BLUE RAIDERS 6, BEARS 1
Halftime score: 3-0.
Goals: Cleveland: Jesse Jones 2, Alex Rodriguez, Rosmel Gallo, Jonathan Collins, Mike Kanarski. Bradley Central: Mason McHann.
Assist: Brandon Romero, Rosmel Gallo, Anfernee Avila 2, Jonathan Collins, Kameron Dunn.
Record: Cleveland 6-4, 1-1 5-AAA; Bradley Central 4-2, 0-1.