Riders finding a way to win tight games

Rocky Edmond. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CAMDEN — The games have been close, but the Caesar Rodney High boys’ soccer team is still stacking Henlopen Conference Northern Division victories on top of one another.

The Riders enter tonight’s 7 p.m. home contest against Sussex Central High in first place in the Henlopen North. They are 4-0 against North opposition and 8-2 overall.

Caesar Rodney carries a five-game win streak into tonight.

And the Riders have been tested. They have a 5-1 record in one-goal games so far.

“We’re playing together and we’re staying focused,” said junior forward Rocky Edmond. “We play our game. That’s what we do, stay focused, finish and get the win.”

Caesar Rodney’s knack for winning close games was on display right away this season.

The Riders went down 1-0 in the season opener to Newark High but battled back for a 2-1 victory behind goals by seniors Ayden Brown and Chase Ewald. Ewald was at it against a few days later, scoring his second game-winner in as many games for a 1-0 win over Charter.

Lyod Coutilien. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

Against Henlopen North teams, the Riders have defeated Polytech 1-0, Milford 2-1 and Sussex Tech 3-2.

“It shows we got a lot grit,” Ewald said.

“We’ve handled the pressure well,” Brown said. “Milford, Charter and Polytech, games like that, we were able to come out on top. For some of the new players, those games give them exposure to that environment.”

Clutch goals have been a theme for the Riders this season.

Ewald’s goal against Wilmington Charter came in overtime. Spencer Ott netted the game-winner against Polytech with three minutes left in the contest while Edmond won the Milford game for the Riders on a goal with five minutes remaining.

“We’re finding a way to win all these tight games,” said Caesar Rodney coach Darrell Gravatt. “It’s a testament to how good these guys are as a unit.”

The Milford game was another matchup where the Riders found themselves trailing early on. But they tied it on a goal by senior Lyod Coutilien before Edmond’s strike won it.

“When we get down we just talk to one another and tell each other what we need to do,” Coutilien said. “We go out there and do it without being nervous.”

The Riders graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad which reached the semifinals of the Division I state tournament, where it fell to Appoquinimink in overtime.

But this season’s version of the Riders had 11 seniors ready to take their place. Gravatt said there are six or seven new players in the starting lineup at times this year and he has not noticed any dropoff.

“We had a lot of guys waiting their turn,” Gravatt said. “They might be first-year starters this year but they’ve been in the program for three years. They’ve been itching for their chance and this is their chance.”

“A lot of the kids on the team have been in the program for a while so they’ve been learning from these older kids,” Ewald said. “It’s your senior year now so you have a lot of confidence.”

Ott leads the Riders in goals this year with seven. Coutilien and Edmond are right behind him with five apiece.

Junior goalie Zander Omans is in his first full season as CR’s starter and has recorded five shutouts.

“I think we have a lot of talent,” Gravatt said. “We just had to make sure we had them in the right positions and we feel pretty confident we have them in the right positions now. It took us a little while in the beginning to get going but we’ve rolled off several wins in a row now.”

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