It’s been an up and down season for Caesar Rodney’s boys soccer program, but with a handful of games left in the regular season, they’ve fought back into playoff contention.
Almost always a contender for the Henlopen Conference crown and a threat in the state tournament, the Riders have dealt with their share of adversity, the kind the program isn’t necessarily used to.
CR hasn’t lost four games in a season in two years, having dropped two games a season ago and three the year before. With six games remaining on their schedule and a 6-3 mark, the Riders have left themselves little room for error.
With the season winding down, head coach Darrell Gravatt believes stumbling early has been beneficial for the team.
“We’ve learned a lot offensively and defensively,” Gravatt said. “We’ve made some changes that should strengthen us on both sides of the ball. The tough early games have made us ready
for the rest of the season.”
After opening with a tough 1-0 loss to Charter School of Wilmington, the Riders bounced back to take three straight against Milford, MOT Charter and Sussex Central, outscoring those three opponents by a whopping 18-1.
But after seemingly finding their footing early on, CR dropped two of their next three, falling to one of the top DII schools in the state, Indian River, and then and perennial DI contender Appoquinimink. The team did earn a big 3-0 win over Sussex Tech.
At the midway point, the Riders found themselves at a crossroads with a 4-3 mark. Since then they’ve responded well, breezing by Seaford 9-1 before a hard fought 1-0 victory over an improving Smyrna squad.
Throughout the season the Riders leaned upon several upperclassmen, all of whom have grown as play has progressed.
Heading into this week, senior Braden Phillips led the team with eight goals, followed by fellow senior Chikezie Ikwuagwu with seven and junior standout Monroe Hite at five.
The Riders have also seen offensive production from senior Zach Davis and junior Spencer Ott, who have four goals each, while senior Jacob Stant and junior Lyod Coutillien have combined for seven goals on the year.
After a matchup with undefeated Cape Henlopen early in the week, the Riders will travel to Delmar Thursday.
Then, in their final four games, CR will take on three conference opponents in Dover, Polytech and Sussex Academy, plus an away game against William Penn.
With every game meaning something, the Riders are looking to finish strong. That means continuing to adjust and shore up areas that have given them problems.
“We definitely need to give up less goals,” Gravatt said. “We also need to transition quicker from offense to defense. We need to finish our chances on offense and also stay positive and support each other always.”