Apparently, somebody on the Rapid City Stevens boys' soccer sidelines forgot to turn the light switch on in the first half.
Once they did early in the second half, the Raiders were able to take control and score all three of their goals in an 18-minute stretch for the tough 3-1 win over an improved Sturgis squad Tuesday in the first round of the Class AA state boys' playoffs at Sioux Park.
It was all about raising the intensity for the Raiders, and in a hurry, junior forward Rex Wiebe said.
"We just didn't come out like we should of, and they kind of took advantage of that in the first half," Wiebe said. "In the second half we just kind of flipped on the switch and raised the intensity a whole lot. We turned it around a lot in the second half."
In the other boys' playoff game, Watertown slipped past Rapid City Central 1-0.
It was a strong start for the Scoopers, who scored the lone first-half goal at the 11:25 mark on a corner kick header by Brodie Eisenbraun, assisted by Kale Dennis.
Sturgis controlled the rest of the first half, not letting the Raiders get into their game.
"That first half we just played great," Sturgis coach Ty Louder said. "We were clearly in control of the game for the first 45-50 minutes. But we just had a breakdown, giving up an easy foul in the second half to start off, and we just didn't mark inside the box. They had some good looks when our keeper was on the ground. We gave them opportunities and they capitalized on our mistakes."
The Raiders, 7-2-3, tied the game in a free kick from junior midfielder Ross Moriarty at the 36:33 mark, and took the lead on Wiebe's short goal 16 minutes later and got some breathing room on a short fastbreak by Levi Bushing at the 18-minute mark.
"Ross's goal gave us a lot more momentum, thinking we can score again, and I scored. Levi got a goal after that," Wiebe said. "We had better first touches, better pressure, just better everything."
Stevens coach Jeff Fierro said he wished he could have duplicated the second half for the entire game.
"We've had some issues with some intensity. I think our guys are trying to stay composed, and for them, that means to lay back a little bit," he said. "Sturgis was just beating us to the ball in the first half. I felt like like they had more numbers in the middle."
The statistical numbers were actually pretty even, with Sturgis out-shooting the Raiders 13-12, with eight shots on goal to six for Stevens. Both goalkeepers — Carter Waggoner for the Raiders and Coy Fischer for the Scoopers — had five saves each.
The Raiders will take on Brandon Valley Saturday in Brandon. The Lynx downed Brookings 5-0 Tuesday.
"When we think about the games that we have played well against quality opponents, we know we can play with any team in the state," Fierro said. "But when we lose that intensity and come out struggling, then we get a little nervous."
Despite the loss, Louder said it was a good season for the Scoopers, 10-5, in their first year in the AA ranks.
"We're a very small school and we came out and competed this entire season," he said. "We had 20 more goals this year than we had last year, and we allowed a lot less goals than we did last year. We should be able to build on this and come back stronger next year."
Watertown slips past Cobblers
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The Cobblers had their chances, but could't find the back of the net in the worst of times — in the playoffs.
The Arrows, who came into the tournament as the 10th seed against the seventh-seed Cobblers, used a free kick by junior Kade Rumpza just 18 minutes into the game. They made it stand up for the win and a chance to keep their season alive.
"We had plenty of opportunities, we just couldn't find the net, we couldn't finish it," Central coach Joe Sabrowski said. "I thought we played a great second half. We had a lot of possessions, and created a lot chances. We just needed one next pass or that shot. It just wasn't happening."
Central out-shot Watertown 11-8 and had six shots on goal, to just three shots on goal for the Arrows.
The Arrows changed their game some and protected that one-goal lead the rest of the way for the shutout victory.
Watertown coach Justin Harte said that slowing things down in the second half isn't necessarily their style, but protecting a 1-0 lead, he said they did what they had to do.
"We had a few guys get knocked up, so we moved a few guys around and the bench came up big. They locked down a 1-0 lead. I'm proud of them," he said.
But Watertown took advantage of a hand ball and Rumpza hit the left upper corner of the net.
"We have some excellent guys who can takes shots. The kid (Rumpza) who scored that goal, that's like his third goal on a free kick. He hits the ball well. He saw something, got it over the wall and put it right in."
Despite Watertown's style, Sabrowski said it gave the Cobblers plenty of chances to get the equalizer, but they just couldn't ind it.
"It was no lack of effort on either side. We could have won a few more balls, but what do you do? It's soccer," he said.
Fatigue was a problem in the end as well, Sabrowski said.
"By that point it is already too late to sub out your starters, hopefully they can push through. They were gassed," he said. "I didn't get enough rotation in the middle to keep them fresh. We had an advantage for a while, and it was hard to make a change and lose that momentum. That's a coaching thing — not the players, but the coach. Am I making the right changes at the right time?"
The Cobblers saw their season come to an end at 7-4-2.
"I feel bad for them, we felt like we could have gone further," Sabrowski said. "All of my seniors played really hard this year; they all did a good job. I'm proud of them."
With the win, Watertown, 8-6-0, will take on No. 2 Sioux Falls Roosevelt. the Rough Riders blanked Pierre 3-0.
"The guys were focused all week long," Harte said. "It has really been a team effort all year long. We have a young team, just two seniors, so it was a lot of focus and hard work."