Prince George Clicks In Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 2, 2014, 13:21
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — Prince George's soccer team entered the 2014 campaign with high expectations and for good reason. These Royals finished last season with a 10-6-1 overall record while boasting the premier striker in the area and a lineup which is filled with experienced juniors and seniors.
All of which made last week's loss to Colonial Heights a shocking event.
The Royals surrendered a third minute strike to the Colonials' Jake Tyler and could not rebound from there. Instead of regrouping and attempting to dictate the pace of the game with a possession-orientated attack, the Royals forced matters which resulted in turnovers. It seemed they were content with just kicking the ball back and fourth without purpose.
And it's that type of play which continued during almost an entire first half in a road match against the Hopewell Blue Devils. Prince George did not attempt to build attacks through the midfield, but instead launched prayers into the sky. Yet, Prince George's Darion Mealing changed the tone of the game for the Royals.
Mealing made a run in behind the defense and was the recipient of a methodical through-ball before taking a left-footed blast which found net in the 15' minute. And while the Blue Devils would tally a goal of their own within 30 seconds, the Royals responded in less than a minute later on a goal by Kam Smith.
It was the type of response Prince George needed to have and it propelled them to a 5-1 win which was a lot closer than the scoreboard would indicate.
"I think we struggled a little bit to begin this game and it was very similar to our game against Colonial Heights," Royals head coach Tom Harrison said after the win. "We thought we had great possession against Colonial Heights, but when we got to the final third, we broke down ... I think tonight it finally clicked."
And what clicked was the benefit of a methodical offensive-attack.
Prince George never forced matters and took what was given to them which on this night was playing the ball out wide. The Royals continually hammered the flanks and it was their speed and success out wide which allowed them to fire 21 shots at net.
A key person to the offensive attack was center back Jerron Ramsey who not only defended well as he flushed each Hopewell counter-attack out, but was instrumental in building from the back. Ramsey's connecting passes to the midfield and out wide sprung the openings for the Royals' forwards to attack and it did not unnoticed by their head coach.
"We made the move of putting Mitchell Smith into the midfield because he's a real creative player and that's put the onus on Jerron and he's really picked up on that," Harrison said. "Being able to distribute from that back? That's big."
No one took more advantage of the build-up play than Mealing.
The senior co-captain is a big part of every opponent's game-plan because of the speed he brings to the game. No Hopewell player could keep stride with him throughout the night and Mealing took advantage.
His first was his most impressive shot as he fired across his body, but Mealing also scored twice in a two-minute span in the second half of play to record a hat-trick. And it was his first of the two which started the offensive barrage for the Royals.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
In the seconds leading up to his goal, Prince George had banged a header off the crossbar and fired two more toward net which were deflected, seemingly giving Hopewell momentum. But Mealing stole away all momentum with his strike, starting an onslaught of three goals in seven minutes which sealed the game.
"He's our go-to player," Harrison said of the senior. "We're just trying to give him a little bit of help. He makes such an impact, but we need more guys to step up for us to move on through the conference."
And one of those players who has stepped up is sophomore goalkeeper Logan Chadek.
Chadek's play in net allowed Harrison to move Kam Smith into the midfield where he can best use his offensive abilities and his play against the Blue Devils showed why there was so much confidence in the sophomore.
While Hopewell rarely tested him — there were very few shots on goal throughout the game — there were plenty of dangerous chances of which he thwarted with good decision-making. Whenever a Hopewell forward entered the 18-yard box, Chadek made the right decision to either stay in net or make a sprawling dive to halt the attacks, keeping Prince George in control all game long.
"We're happy and excited with his play after he transfered in here this year," Harrison said. "Logan just came at the right time and the place and we couldn't be any happier."
If Prince George uses their second half offensive outburst as a springboard to the rest of the season then Harrison and his players will be happier than they are now as the wins pile up, setting them up for a good chance at a conference crown.