LA CAÑADA —To begin 2014, the Flintridge Prep boys’ soccer team jumped right into action, completing two Prep League games in a 23-hour period to kick off league play in the new year.
Friday afternoon, the Rebels hosted Rio Hondo Prep at Villa Parke and dispatched the Kares, 7-1, before a quick turnaround to host Pasadena Poly in an early Saturday afternoon match on their school field.
“Anything can happen on this field. It’s like watching a pinball machine,” Flintridge Prep Coach AJ Yates said of his team’s compressed home pitch.
After trailing at half, Flintridge Prep got going after the break and salvaged a 1-1 tie with the Panthers, who were playing their league opener, to begin league play unbeaten.
“We battled back in the second half. We did not play very well in the first half,” Yates, in his second year, said. “A tie is not a bad result in this sport. You never like to tie, you’d rather win, but to battle back against a pretty solid team, there is a small sense of satisfaction in that.”
It was the Rebels (8-3-1, 1-0-1) who would score the only goal of the second half, breaking through to find the equalizer in the game’s 54th minute off the foot of senior Cole Rademacher against a host of Panthers defenders.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Rademacher said. “I just saw that Tim sent it over, it got popped up somehow, I looked up and it was right in front of me, so I just did whatever I had to to get it into the open net.”
Rebels junior Tim Bates put a ball down the middle of the field to get the sequence started.
“I got the ball off a punt from the keeper,” Bates said. “I saw their defense was pushing up, but their left back was lagging, so I just sent it in to our center forward and hoped for the best.”
Poly keeper Brian Ward came out to get the bouncing ball among the throng of bodies, but could not find it. It was then that the ball came down to Rademacher and the senior forward sent it into the back of the net to draw even.
“I’m just glad we got the equalizer,” Rademacher said.
Flintridge Prep had given up a goal to Poly (7-3-2, 0-0-1) in the final two minutes of a first half that saw both teams struggle to possess the ball in the midfield. Panther Ben Hubsch burst through the middle of the Rebels back line using his dribble with his defender tucked behind him on his back hip before finishing with a hard low strike that beat Rebels keeper Hamilton Evans to his right.
“In the first half it was a tough game, but we got some opportunities and finally finished one off,” said Poly stand-in coach Rick Thompson, who is filling in for coach Doug Jolly as he recovers from back surgery. “We started well in the second half, then we lost a little bit of shape and they got one confusion goal.”
The possession struggles continued in the second half, although both teams picked up their play.
“It was a hard-fought game, really scrappy,” Bates said. “Not really a lot of possession I think because of the small field. We didn’t play very well in the first half, but were able to come back and get that goal in the second half and push on from there.”
The Rebels’ best scoring chance in the first half came on a set-piece with just less than six minutes to go. Bates drove a long free kick low down the middle of the pitch, connecting with Riley Jones’ run into space. Jones got a foot on the ball, putting it on goal, but Ward made a dazzling reactive save to snuff the chance.
Although the match was physical throughout, the first yellow card came with less than seven minutes to go when Poly’s sparkplug of a striker, Ali Kamal, who minutes later would have a goal disallowed on an offsides call, was rung up for flopping in the box. Soon after, Rebel Brian Heintz drew a yellow of his own for a rough tackle just to the left of the box, but the Panthers could do nothing with the resulting free kick.
“I know we were definitely tired today. I know I was feeling it from the game yesterday,” said Rademacher, who scored twice against the Kares on Friday. “All and all it’s fine we came away with the tie, we still get a point. So one win and one tie in the league isn’t a bad start at all.”