Twenty-two years had passed since Smyrna High’s varsity soccer program achieved its first and only win against Caesar Rodney. The drought finally came to an end on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Charles V. Williams Stadium, as the Eagles defeated the Riders for the second time in school history.
Twenty-two years had passed since Smyrna High’s varsity soccer program achieved its first and only win against Caesar Rodney.
The drought finally came to an end on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Charles V. Williams Stadium, as the Eagles defeated the Riders for the second time in school history.
It happened in dramatic fashion, too.
Caesar Rodney erased a two-goal deficit in the final six minutes of regulation to send the game into extra time, but Ernest Ackah’s golden goal in the second overtime period gave the Eagles a stunning, 5-4 upset victory over the Riders.
The winning goal came in the 95th minute when the Eagles cashed in on a corner kick opportunity. The Riders stopped the initial attempt, but Kyle Branham got the ball back in to Ackah, who put it in from point blank range.
When Smyrna last beat Caesar Rodney in boys’ soccer back in 1988, the players currently on the Eagles’ roster hadn’t been born yet.
“It’s been 20 years,” said Ackah. “It’s a great win for us.”
Early on, it looked like business as usual for Caesar Rodney, who scored the first goal of the game in the 4th minute.
But Smyrna quickly showed that this wouldn’t be a repeat of last year’s game, which the Riders won 8-0.
Andrew Gilbert netted a tying goal for the Eagles in the 8th minute on an assist from Branham.
Just three minutes later, Ackah found the back of the net to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
Branham added a long-range goal in the 27th minute, and the Eagles led by a surprising 3-1 score.
Smyrna carried that lead well into the second half, but the Riders trimmed the lead to one with a goal in the 57th minute.
The Eagles reasserted themselves in the 70th minute, when Justin Mullaney scored off of an assist by Irvin Portugal.
But Smyrna’s 4-2 lead still wasn’t enough to hold off the Riders, who netted goals in the 75th and 77th minute to force overtime.
Despite the deflating end to the second half, the Eagles were able to recover in overtime.
“We kept our heads,” said Smyrna goalie Jalyn Mack. “We wanted this game real bad.”
Mack came up with 11 saves for the Eagles.
“After losing so bad to them last year, we wanted to get them back at our house,” Justin Mullaney said after the game.
Smyrna dealt Caesar Rodney its first conference loss of the season as the Riders dropped to 7-2 overall.
The Eagles improved to 4-4 with the win.
“No one thought we were going to beat CR,” said senior captain Nick Motyl after the game. “Have confidence in yourself and you can do anything.”
Smyrna head coach Bill Schultz said he couldn’t be happier with his team’s ability to bounce back after facing adversity.
“It’s just great high school sports,” he said. “That’s why we’re in it – to allow these kids to make these memories, and allow them this chance to shine.”
A rare achievement
Apart from last week’s victory, the Smyrna High varsity soccer team’s only other win against Caesar Rodney was a 5-2 victory in 1988. Wes Simpson scored four goals for the Eagles, while Tom Kosikowski added a goal and an assist and Steve Van Dorpe made 12 saves in goal.
In 1999, Smyrna battled to a 3-3 tie with the Riders. Winner Okorie scored a pair of goals for the Eagles and B.J. Wilson added one as well in the tie. Justin Falatek was Smyrna’s goalie in the game. The Eagles finished that season with an 11-3-1 record and a state tournament berth.
Based on a compilation of past scores in the Sun-Times archives,
Smyrna High’s varsity soccer team now has an all-time record of 2-23-1 against CR, with the results of three games unaccounted for. All three are probable Smyrna losses, which would make the series record 2-26-1.
Smyrna’s 1988 win against CR was reported in the Sun-Times as the first in program history, which would indicate that missing scores from games in 1985 and 1987 were losses, or possibly ties. The teams met twice in both of those years, and scores reported from the other two games were lopsided CR wins.
No score was printed for the 1994 game, but CR won the state title that year, while Smyrna finished 2-14.