Reloaded CR set to contend in boys soccer again this fall

Senior forward Chikezie Ikwuagwu is one of the Riders’ four captains. Delaware State News file photo

CAMDEN — For years this group of Caesar Rodney High seniors on the boys’ soccer team have waited their turn.

From youth travel soccer, to junior varsity, to bench players on varsity, they’ve all been waiting for that spot in the Riders starting lineup.

Here it is.

Despite graduating nine players from last season’s state tournament squad, the Riders have reloaded with nine more seniors on varsity this season. They’re off to a 1-1 start headed into today’s contest at Polytech High (5:30 p.m.)

“We’ve been waiting our time,” said senior goalie Dillon Rahe. “Some of us sitting on the bench, some of us playing junior varsity, but we’ve been waiting for senior year and we got four senior captains with more seniors in the starting squad. We’ve been ready for this since we were eight or nine.”

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said senior midfielder Zach Davis. “Last year a lot of us didn’t have as big of a role. A lot of us were waiting for this moment to shine.”

Rahe, Davis, senior defender Jacob Stant and senior forward Chikezie Ikwuagwu are the four captains. They’re joined in the starting lineup by fellow seniors Gabe Buckley, Evan McCleary, Reign Stevens and Braden Phillips plus juniors Spencer Ott, John Spadavecchia and Monroe Hite.

While a lot of players are new to the varsity starting lineup, that doesn’t mean they’re new to playing with each other.

“We’ve played since we were 8-years-old,” Stant said. “We’ve been together for a while a lot of these seniors, so a lot of experience.”

So coach Darrell Gravatt isn’t expecting a dropoff from a team that went 15-3 and fell in the state semifinals in 2017 despite graduating nine players.

“We have a lot of first-year starters who aren’t first-year players,” Gravatt said. “We had a lot of good players who graduated but we have a lot of good players coming back. We’re looking forward to their stars shining when they get their turn.”

Caesar Rodney opened the season with a 1-0 defeat to Wilmington Charter in the DAAD Upstate/Downstate Challenge on Saturday.

The Riders normally play Wilmington Charter in the first game of the season. Since the Force are traditionally a state tournament team, it gives the Riders a gauge of what they can expect if they want to compete for another tournament berth and a playoff run.

“We learned there’s stuff we can definitely improve on,” Stant said. “You could count on one hand the amount of shots we had so we need to get more involved in the offense so we can have more chances to score.”

“It showed us what we need to work on,” Ikwuagwu said. “It’s kind of like a punch in the face. We know what we need to improve on. We’re going to be playing teams like that all season so we need to know how to score and beat teams like that.”

After one practice, the Riders regrouped with a game against Milford on Tuesday.

Davis scored 10 minutes into the game, sparking a five-goal outburst in the first half. Caesar Rodney ended up with a 7-0 victory as Davis, Phillips and Hite each scored twice while Ikwuagwu added one of his own.

“Once we got everything set at practice after the Charter game day it looked great,” Davis said. “We scored that first goal against Milford and it all just came together after that.”

The Riders are hoping to carry that momentum into the rest of the season.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” Ikwuagwu said. “As we go through the season, I think we can grow into a very strong team.”

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