FLEMING ISLAND - Noah Eaton and Matthew Male scored first half goals and host Fleming Island withstood furious pressure in the final minutes to edge rival Oakleaf 2-1 on Wed., Jan. 5 at Fleming …
FLEMING ISLAND - Noah Eaton and Matthew Male scored first half goals and host Fleming Island withstood furious pressure in the final minutes to edge rival Oakleaf 2-1 on Wed., Jan. 5 at Fleming Island High School.
The Class 6A Golden Eagles improved to 7-5 while handing Class 7A Oakleaf its first loss of the season after nine victories.
Many of the players on both teams have played on the same club teams at Clay County Youth Soccer growing up, and the rivalry is immense. The effort expended caused cramps for players on both sides.
“These are the types of game you want to play,” said Oakleaf head coach Brett Rountree. “The intensity of this game is a playoff-type game, as far as atmosphere and the quality of the game.”
Eaton put it more succinctly: “This is literally the only game we care about.”
Although Oakleaf enjoyed a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks in the first half, Fleming Island took the early lead. At the 19:00 mark, Golden Eagles midfielder Aaron Montoya launched a throw-in from the left sideline into the 18-yard box, where Oakleaf defender Drew Ammon rose above a scrum to head the ball away from the goal. The ball bounced toward Eaton standing alone beyond the right side of the box, and the senior stepped up and launched a shot that sailed above and to the right of Knights’ keeper Peyton Gbelayan, just under the crossbar.
“The ball started bouncing out to me,” explained Eaton. “It was my weak foot, but I just decided, ‘Why not?’ and aimed for the top corner.”
Eaton missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Thirteen minutes later, Male gained control of a loose ball near midfield, dribbled down the right side, deftly evaded a defender at the top of the box and drove a hard roller past a diving Gbelayan.
Fleming Island rode its momentum into more second half opportunities, but Gbelayan made several difficult saves to keep the Eagles from widening their lead. Meanwhile, the Knights cashed in at the 32:23 mark when Braden Hill dribbled down the left alley, beat a Golden Eagles defender inside the box and lifted a shot to the far post that eluded Fleming Island keeper Peyton French.
The Golden Eagles survived several scares in the final 20 minutes as the Knights pressed for the equalizer. Two Oakleaf crossing passes sailed through the box untouched within a minute of each other. A Hill free kick from the upper corner of the box was headed out by Golden Eagles defender Shepherd Eason, and French made a diving save off of the ensuing throw-in.
Oakleaf’s best chance to tie the game came with 4:56 remaining when Fleming Island was called for a foul inside the box. Hill’s penalty kick sailed over the goal, clanging hard off the football goalpost behind it.
A final Knights shot was headed back out by Fleming Island’s Logan Dailey.
FLEMING ISLAND - With two Knights visiting Fleming Island High School for boys soccer, Fleming Island High’s boys soccer answered the call with a simple “Good night, Knights” as both Oakleaf and Creekside, ironically the Knights, fell prey to championship pedigree installed at Fleming Island over a history of deep playoff runs and state championships.
Fleming Island High soccer forward Noah Eaton scored two goals and Peyton French made nine saves to lift host Fleming Island to a 4-3 win over Creekside on Fri., Jan. 7.
“For the last three years, Creekside has basically owned us,” said Fleming Island coach Michael Green. “We finally played with confidence against a good team, and for the most part, we dominated.”
Creekside High’s Knights was the second consecutive Goliath slayed by the Class 6A Golden Eagles, who improved to 8-5 on the season.
Oakleaf had been unbeaten before Fleming Island defeated the Knights two nights earlier, but the win against Creekside may have been even more impressive. The Creekside Knights entered Friday’s contest with an 8-1-1 record, ranked eighth in Class 7A by Maxpreps.com, and on a six-game winning streak during which they had outscored their opponents 34-2. In previous years, Creekside and Fleming Island had been in the same classification, and none of the Fleming Island players who played Friday had ever defeated the Knights.
Fleming Island led 4-1 before the Knights scored two late goals, one with only one minute to play, to narrow the final margin.
After nearly a half hour without a goal, the teams combined for four goals in the next eight minutes. Fleming Island scored first. A corner kick was headed out to the top right corner of the 18-yard box by Creekside’s Zachary Bender. Eaton gained control and sent the ball back to the middle, where teammate Nathan Ernst had just enough space to send a low ball through traffic toward the left side. The perfect shot hit the left goal post and bounced into the goal.
Creekside tied the game five minutes later. French came out of the box to play a loose ball, but his clearing attempt went right into the chest of Knights leading scorer Joey Mueller. Mueller corralled the loose ball and sent a shot into the unprotected goal.
The Golden Eagles regained the lead 43 seconds after Mueller’s score. Eaton was fouled inside the box while driving toward the goal, resulting in a penalty kick that defender Logan Dailey splashed into the upper right corner of the net.
The highlight of the first half came when Eaton delivered a left-footed volley from 35 yards away. The high, arching ball came down just under the crossbar, leaving Creekside keeper Gunnar Lanham no chance to reach it. The goal gave Fleming Island a 3-1 edge at the 7:20 mark.
“That was probably one of the best goals of his life,” Green said of Eaton’s bomb. “He is a very skilled player, he hit it great, and that thing just dropped into the goal.”
For his part, Eaton had noticed something that he wanted to take advantage of.
“I saw that the goalie was off his line,” said Eaton. “I thought, ‘the first time I get the ball, I am shooting it, I don’t care how far away it is.’”
French made three saves, including two punch saves to deflect balls over the crossbar, in a 60-second frenzy at the 3:00 mark that allowed the Golden Eagles to carry their two-goal advantage into the intermission.
“He saved our butts,” Green said of French. “He has a tremendously competitive nature, and he has been lights out.”
The turning point came at the 35:00 mark of the second half when Creekside missed out on a golden opportunity to pull within one. French made a save but could not control the rebound, leaving Mueller all alone with the ball right in front of the goal. A Fleming defender fouled Mueller. On the ensuing penalty klick, the normally lethal Mueller missed wide left. French had guessed that Mueller would kick the ball in the other direction, leaving the net wide open where Mueller was aiming.
The Golden Eagles extended their lead at the 28:45 mark with a counterattack. French gathered in a Creekside shot and sent a punt down the middle of the field. Eaton overtook a Creekside defender, wrested control of the bouncing ball away and dribbled toward the goal. The senior faked a shot as Lanham stepped out to meet him. With Lanham sprawled on the ground, Eaton took one last dribble and tapped the ball across the goal line.
Creekside sophomore Aidan Mark scored off of a long throw-in at the 15 minute mark, and Mueller scored his second goal of the night on a breakaway with 1:01 remaining.
The win is the Golden Eagles’ third in a row after a four-game losing streak. Green hopes that Fleming Island’s rugged schedule, which has included only three teams with losing records among the 13 opponents so far, will prepare them for a playoff run at the end of January.
“I made the schedule as tough as I could make it,” said Green. “You want to play tough teams so that when you get to the playoffs, you are not shell-shocked.”
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