ORANGE PARK – Ridgeview High soccer forward Miguel Ortiz, the team’s top scoring threat, needed just a minute to rev up and punch in the lone goal for the Panthers who won 1-0 over Matanzas High …
ORANGE PARK – Ridgeview High soccer forward Miguel Ortiz, the team’s top scoring threat, needed just a minute to rev up and punch in the lone goal for the Panthers who won 1-0 over Matanzas High Feb. 10 in the region 1-3A semifinal game played at Ridgeview High School.
“Ask the boys about making history tonight,” said Ridgeview High coach Paul Tomaro. “We played a different line up against Matanzas than we did in the first game. We had just two forwards up front because they had their big guy in the middle clearing balls all night last time. We had Jaidan (Turner) adding some speed on the sideline opposite Miguel (Ortiz).”
The historic win, a first for the Ridgeview High program, propels Tomaro and the Panthers to a region championship match on Wed., Feb. 14 against Arnold High School Arnold defeated Mosley High of Lynn Haven 2-1 to advance. Ridgeview, still unbeaten at 13-0-1, ventures into its first region final. In 2009, under coach Frank Cacia, now in Boston, Ridgeview made it to the region semifinal, but lost. Arnold, 17-4-1, is the district 2-3A champion with wins over Choctawhatchee (1-0) and Mosley (2-1) in region playoffs. Ridgeview, the district 4-3A champion over Matanzas, beat Wolfson (3-0) and Matanzas a second time to advance.
Arnold has two recent region playoff berths; 2015, 2016, but no region playoffs wins with eight appearances dating back to 2004. Ridgeview, in district 4A with Fleming Island in 2012 and 2013, was beaten by Springstead 3-0 in 2012 and 1-0 by Ocala Forest in 2013, both under Tomaro, in region quarterfinals.
In 2009, under Cacia, Ridgeview lost 3-0 to Stanton in the region 1-4A semifinals after beating Bishop Kenny 3-0 in the region opener. In 2008, Ridgeview also beat Bishop Kenny 5-1 then lost to Stanton 2-1.
In Saturday night’s region semifinal against Matanzas, a team that took the district title to overtime before losing in penalty kicks to Ridgeview, both teams seemed intent on repeating the scenario as shots were repelled time and time from both goalkeepers with Ridgeview’s Adam Mineo stopping six shots in the first half.
In the second half, midfielder Dante DeSantis lofted a long service ball from midfield that caught Ortiz in full stride just inside the 18 yard that Ortiz carried two steps before firing his left-footed shot just left of the goal. DeSantis found Ortiz two more times with bombs over the top of the Matanzas defense, but the defense collapsed quickly to thwart the threat.
“The game plan was isolate Matanzas, not let them out beyond the 50 and find Jaidan and Miguel behind them,” said DeSantis. “We got three more games hopefully.”
Ortiz, had four shots on goal for the game, but found his foot on the first one of the second half despite the crowded goal box.
“They had five or six guys in front of the goal the whole night,” said Ortiz. “Jaidan on the other side helps out a lot because he plays with a lot of speed. We just tried to bang, bang, bang when we got close and maybe one would get by.”
Both teams kept the attacks oncoming at a furious pace with Ridgeview’s Jaiden Turner, playing the opposite sideline of Ortiz, pushing his speedy strikes to goal causing enough disruption to keep the Matanzas defense slightly off guard. Center forward Pele Blackley also added to the barrage for Ridgeview.
In the second 20 minute segment of the contest, Matanzas turned their defense around and pushed harder on the offensive with more possessions inside the Panther 50. In the final five minutes, Matanzas had numerous opportunities between a flurry of yellow cards on aggressive defense by Ridgeview and a handful of corner kicks from misfires toward Mineo. Center defender Charlies Barrett and outside defender Elias Martin, ept busy in front of Mineo keeping the Matanzas offense at bay just inside the 18 yard line.
“He has made great saves then entire regions,” said Tomaro. “The way we play up front attack the opposite goal, he has to be on his game if a breakaway gets behind us. So far, so good. Having Elias back was huge.”