MANDARIN – Ridgeview High soccer coach Paul Tomaro had his top scorer back in the lineup and that had gotten some improved play from the Panthers, but the key player in the Panthers’ 2-1 region 1-3A quarterfinal overtime loss to Stanton Prep was football speedster Jaiden Turner, who blazed up and down the pitch to set up numerous Panther scoring opportunities in the Wed., Feb. 6 clash held at Mandarin High School due to field construction at Stanton. Ridgeview advanced as a sixth seed in the district tournament before falling 3-0 to Ponte Vedra in the championship game.
“Having Miguel (Ortiz) back is a big plus for us,” said Tomaro, who, with a seven wins, 10 loss overall record, snuck into the district 4-3A championship game against Ponte Vedra High (14-3-2) last week. “He brings together the downfield attack. We tried to piece together the season.”
Back in 2018, Ridgeview, with Ortiz as top scorer, hammered their way to an overtime district title over Matanzas, a second overtime win over Matanzas in the region semifinal and a thrilling overtime loss to Arnold High in the region championships.
“We have had luck in overtime,” said Tomaro. “They had a little more in the gas in the end.”
Against Stanton (15-8-4), the Blue Devils struck first and very quickly with a penalty kick against freshman goalie Max Bennette putting Ridgeview behind 1-0 after just two minutes.
“We put Adam Mineo (starting goalie) in front of Max on defense to give our midfield defense some push forward,” said Tomaro. “Max did a good job and Adam played great in setting up our offense. We just did not get the bounces in front of the goal.”
Stanton kept the offensive pressure on with a half dozen shots at Bennette and the Panthers unable to get past the midfield line for most of the first half.
Near the halftime break, Bryan Ortiz broke down the sideline in front of the Stanton bench and got a service pass in front of the Stanton goal that Russell Martin tried to get a head on; unsuccessful, but Ridgeview was cracking the Stanton defense. At 16:36, Ridgeview got a corner kick that was ejected out.
At 10:37, Tomaro put Turner in on a wideline forward position and the additional speed downfield got the Panthers their first serious attack formation with Turner’s shot on the run cleared the top of the cross bar.
“Jaiden gave us a jolt,” said Tomaro. “Mineo was a rock for the defense.”
With the Panthers offense making some dents in the Stanton defense, a yellow card got issued on a Blue Devil defender as Ridgeview seemed imminently ready to strike, but the half ended at 1-0.
In the second half, Turner’s strikes down the left sideline were becoming more effective in loosening up the Stanton defense and, at 27:38, Ortiz found a loose ball just inside the midfield stripe and sprinted toward the right corner of the field only to attract a Stanton defender and create a Panther corner kick.
Quickly after the call, Ortiz lofted a soft corner kick just inside the outer post where Turner was patrolling and caught the ball off his head for the tying goal.
At 21:56, Ortiz blasted a shot just above the cross bar as Ridgeview kept pressure in the Stanton side of the pitch.
After the first overtime finished scoreless, both teams readied for the lactic acid testing second overtime with Ridgeview seemingly holding an energy edge.
In the second overtime, at 8:00, Turner again broke behind the Stanton defense and got to within five feet of the Stanton goal only to have a goalie save reject the close call. Ridgeview got three corner kicks inside the three minute mark, but could not get a bounce.