Thomas Dale throttles Prince George
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
May 24, 2013, 11:15
CHESTERFIELD – After watching his team claim a Central District road win over Matoaca last month, Thomas Dale boys soccer coach Mark Fowler said the Knights were struggling to turn scoring chances into goals.
As they played on the same field 25 days later, those concerns appeared to have evaporated on Monday. Ignited by six goals from five different players, top-seeded Thomas Dale ousted No. 4 Prince George with a 6-2 victory in the first round of the district tournament.
Thomas Dale senior Brooks Reiber (14) unleashes a shot while under duress from Prince George junior Darion Mealing on Monday in Chesterfield (photo by David Breidenbach).
“It’s always nice to score a few goals,” Fowler said. “I won’t say no to the ball going in the net. I’m happy enough about that.”
Senior Brooks Reiber has undoubtedly shouldered his portion of Thomas Dale’s offensive burden in recent weeks. Reiber scored the second and third goals on Monday to endow the Knights with a 3-0 halftime lead.
“Brooks has been outstanding all season, and he was outstanding again tonight,” Fowler said. “He twisted and turned defenders. He’s a good player, no doubt. He’s a quality athlete.”
The result pushed Thomas Dale’s district winning streak to 14 games and brought an end to Prince George’s season. The scoreline, both coaches agreed, was harsh on the Royals, who won seven of their last nine regular-season outings.
“I give a lot of credit to Prince George,” Fowler said. “They came, they harassed, they hustled, they chased hard and did very well indeed.”
The elimination game – which was played amid a driving rain – began in even-keeled fashion, but the Knights made good use of a defensive mishap to open the scoring in the seventh minute. Vaughn Fowler delivered a cross from the left side that found Marco Carrabotta all alone near the penalty spot.
The sophomore forward made no mistake, scoring with a header to give the perennial district champions a lead they would never relinquish.
“There were times when we controlled possession and pressured more than they did,” said Prince George coach Tommy Harrison. “But we weren’t capitalizing when they made a rare mistake. When we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”
Reiber kept his composure to convert breakaway opportunities in the 16th and 38th minutes, making the result a formality by the start of the second half.
Thomas Dale junior Andrew Wenzel scored to make the score 4-0 in the opening moments of the second frame, but Prince George senior Brandon Hilliard slotted home a left-footed shot to reduce the deficit to 4-1 with 30 minutes remaining.
That margin persisted for 21 minutes – the game’s longest stint without a goal. Central District player of the year Grayson Smith rolled a penalty kick to the left of Prince George goalkeeper Kam Smith to break the brief bout of scorelessness and restore the Knights’ four-goal cushion.
Matt Mangano scored a glancing header to give the Knights their largest lead of the night at 6-1 with five minutes left, but Prince George senior Michael Kanney struck in the game’s dying embers to provide the final margin.
The Royals finished the season with a record of 10-6-1. Four Prince George seniors – Hilliard, Kanney, Burak Karabudak and Matt Schneck – played the final game of their high school careers.
“This was the first time that we’ve been back to the tournament [since 2008],” Harrison said. “When I started 10 years ago, it seemed like it was our birthright to be in the tournament, but we’ve struggled for the last five years.
“Like I told those four guys, they left the program in better shape than it was in when they got here.”
Thomas Dale (14-2-1), which has already clinched a berth in the Central Region tournament by virtue of its regular-season title, will meet No. 3 Colonial Heights in the district championship game on Thursday at Matoaca High School.
“Whatever happens, it’s going to be a tough game,” Mark Fowler said. “Hopefully, we’re prepared and we’ll have a nicer evening so we can knock it around and play some football.”
Prince George goalkeeper Kam Smith collects a loose ball during a Central District tournament game against Thomas Dale on Monday in Chesterfield (photo by David Breidenbach).