Riders fall to Appo 5-2 in Division I soccer semifinals

CR’s Thomas Pomatto heads the ball against Appoquinimink at Smyrna on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — The Caesar Rodney High boys’ soccer team took the lead twice, but there was always a response from Appoquinimink High.

The Jaguars then used a strong second half to pull away and defeat the Riders 5-2 in the semifinals of the DIAA Division I state tournament on Wednesday night at Smyrna High.

CR’s Kyle Wenting celebrates his first half goal against Appoquinimink at Smyrna on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Appoquinimink, the tournament’s second seed, will face top-seeded Salesianum in the state championship Saturday at 5 p.m. hosted at Smyrna.

Caesar Rodney, who was seeded third, wrapped up its season at 15-2. The Riders made it back to the semifinals after a first-round exit in 2016 when they lost in penalty kicks.

It was the second time this year Appoquinimink knocked off Caesar Rodney. The Riders lost 5-1 on Oct. 3, a game where they also scored the first goal before an Appoquinimink rally.

“I feel like they finished more of their chances,” said CR coach Darrell Gravatt. “I think we had as many chances as they did and we were close in possession. I thought both teams played well and we were both under a lot of pressure. They converted more than we did for the second time in a row this year. That’s why they’re a great team and why they were second in the seeding index.”

The Riders grabbed an early lead when Tommy Pomatto’s corner kick was deflected into the net off an Appoquinimink defender. The Jaguars didn’t take long to equalize, as Derek Fisher tapped in a loose ball just two minutes later.

CR’s Monroe Hite kicks the ball away from Appoquinimink’s Matthew Meadows at Smyrna on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

But once again Caesar Rodney converted off a corner. This time it was Kyle Wentling who attacked Pomatto’s cross right in front of the goal for a header goal.

Just like the last goal though, Appoquinimink immediately tied the game. The Jaguars got a corner kick of their own which was headed off the crossbar and right to Matt Meadows who knocked the rebound in.

Alex Suarez gave Appoquimink the lead for good in the 35th minute. Meadows added another in the second half before the Jaguars scored on a goalmouth scramble in the game’s final minute.

“If we lose, we want to lose to someone very, very tough and that’s them,” Gravatt said. “Appo is for real and so are we. I think we scared them, especially in that first half. We played very well.”

It was a tough way to end the season but Gravatt said he’ll look back on the year with positive memories.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Gravatt said. “We won our division, won our conference and we’re one of the top four in the state. We lost a tough one, but congratulations to Appo.”

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