The youthful and growing Caesar Rodney boys soccer squad impressed last season, finishing with a record of 12-2-1 and making it to the DIAA State Tournament Semifinal to earn Dover Post “Team of the Year” on the pitch.
The Riders entered last season with a predominately young core that had fought hard to make the playoffs in the previous year before being knocked out in the first round of the DIAA Tournament.
With the majority of the team returning with another season of experience under their belts, the Riders were poised for a very strong season and they didn’t disappoint. The Riders did not taste defeat until their ninth game of the season, going undefeated (7-0-1) in their first 8 games. After falling for the first time to Indian River, the Riders went onto win 5 of their last 6 games before a 2-1 loss to Appoquinimink to finish up their regular season.
The Riders boasted a dynamic offense, paired with a smothering defense and strong goaltending from sophomore Kevin Patrick Sheahan. Throughout the regular season, the Rider outscored their opponents 66-16 en-route to a 12-2-1 record and a berth in the DIAA Boys State Soccer Tournament.
In the first round, the Riders defeated a scrappy Delcastle squad 5-0, before advancing to the Semifinals after a 3-2 win over Henlopen Conference foe Sussex Tech.
Unfortunately for the Riders, they ran into state-wide powerhouse Salesianum in the Semifinal round. The Riders were defeated 3-0 by Salesianum who would go onto win their third consecutive State crown.
“I am really proud of these guys,” said CR Head Coach Darrell Gravatt after his Riders fell to Salesianum. “It was a great season and I think it takes a formidable team to beat us, and they are a formidable team. And there’s no shame in that.”
And while the Riders were disappointed with how the season ended, they never got discouraged. With only 3 players departing as graduates from last year’s squad, the Riders know they’re in prime position to compete once again this upcoming season.
After having only 3 seniors last year, the Riders will have a possible 9 seniors on the squad this season. Leading scorer Chimaobi Ikwuagwu will lead a strong group of seniors that includes, Austin Hayward, Lott Phinnessee, Nick Gruwell and Garrett Dixon.
The Riders will also have a host of returning underclassmen who were an important part of CR’s run last year. Adrian Coverdale and Chris McPoyle lead a talented underclassmen core of midfielders, while forward Tom Aloe returns keeping the Ikwuagwu/Aloe scoring duo alive.
The returning talent will be backed up by returning junior goal-keeper Sheahan, who posted 7 shutouts (including playoffs) last season.
“If there’s a better keeper anywhere in the country, I haven’t seen him,” said CR Head Coach Darrell Gravatt. “He’s a great keeper, the best keeper that I have seen in my life, anywhere, in a non-professional setting.”
Reflecting on the season, Gravatt and his team can look back and feel good about what they had accomplished. Also, they can take some comfort in knowing they have virtually their entire team coming back intact.