BARTRAM TRAIL – In the backyard of the Bartram Trail High School Bears, the visiting Oakleaf Knights knew Friday’s district matchup was a statement game that, if the Knights want to repeat at …
BARTRAM TRAIL – In the backyard of the Bartram Trail High School Bears, the visiting Oakleaf Knights knew Friday’s district matchup was a statement game that, if the Knights want to repeat at district champions and attempt to further than last year’s squad, they had to come through.
“This is a tough district” said Knights Head Coach Fred Hulett, who inherited the head coach job from Matt Hollyoak, who guided the Knights to a district semifinal overtime upset of 2017 4A champion Fleming Island and a second overtime win; over Creekside, for the title before losing to eventual 4A runnerup Fletcher in their region opener. “We knew we had to put goals in the back of the net. A tie isn’t going to be enough.”
Going almost the entire first half without a goal, it seemed like the Knights could have another tie shaping up which would not help their cause. Just before the half, the Knights found themselves looking up out of the hole as the Bears went into the half break up 1-0. Coming out of the break, the Knights regrouped and only took a little over seven minutes to tie the game when Senior Braden Ammon broke through for his first of two scores on the night.
“We knew the chances would come and it was just going to be putting them away” said Ammon. “We missed a couple in the first half and just needed to get the execution down.”
Once the team had a taste of scoring, it was an all offense second half of the game as the Knights went on to a 3-1 road victory against a formattable Bartram Bears team that will most likely be a playoff matchup in a few short weeks.
At 5:06 left in the first half, the Knights had a throw-in in their defensive end that didn’t go far enough. The Bears slid in, stole the ball, passed across field and scored the first goal.
At the half break, Hulett gathered his crew back up.
“Our last week of training we really started working on some different things and you saw that before the water break in the first half,” said Hulett. “Moving the ball well, getting space, creating opportunities and then we fell back into some of our old habits. We held the ball too long and not letting the ball move as quickly as we should, so we saw the results of that.”
Off the half break, it was noticeable how much better the Knights were attacking as the ball remained in their offense end of the field.
Senior Jackson Hester would start the offensive surge with a corner kick that Hester timed perfectly. As he leapt and headed the ball, it sailed just above the crossbar. While the ball didn’t go in, the Knights had a taste of Bear meat and wanted more.
As Oakleaf hammered away, at 13:18, Ammon finally had the right pass, tested the Bear’s keeper, and blasted the shot by to tie the game. Ammon came right back just a few minutes later as his team continued to frustrate the Bears on Defense, getting the ball in the second third of the field, then finally breaking away.
As Ammon drove to the net, his defender could not keep up.
“The goalie was coming right out to me. I couldn’t go left, I couldn’t go right, so I just tipped it over him,” said Ammon.
At 9:21, the second goal in less than five minutes rocked the Bears back on their heels. Oakleaf seemed to have another goal in the making as the offense had the ball in the box with at least five players. The ball crossed the front of the net several times and hit the post twice, refusing to go in.
Then in another offensive drive, the icing on the cake came at 3:44 left to play as freshman Jaylan Parkerurban found himself in a stare down with the Bear’s keeper. As Parkerurban drove hard, the keeper came out again and Parkerurban drilled the corner of the net for the third and final score on the night.
Asked about the playoff run-up, Ammon capped it with “We know we have to go in and fight for everything we are going to get. It’s a different team from last year and we are ready to go.”
Oakleaf has one final game; against 3A-Ridgeview, before readying for their district title defense.