Match in Row
in Battle of Sussex
Photos: In top photo, Sussex Central's Eulalio Perez (left) tracks Milford's Bryce Plummer. In middle, Central's Andrej Goette (7) and Paul Despinasse (21) take the ball away. Below, Central goalkeeper Mike Dondarski holds on to an important save.
GEORGETOWN -- Less than a month ago, a state tournament berth seemed unlikely for the Sussex Central High School boys' soccer team.
Injuries to all-conference selections Dilmar Perez and Francisco Chavez appeared to have doomed the Golden Knights' bid for a second straight tourney trip.
But just 28 days later, the Knights have turned what looked like a .500 season into a likely tournament berth with an eight-match winning streak including a 2-1 victory over highly regarded Milford on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
In what could be billed as the Sussex County Championship, the Knights, behind goalkeeper Mike Dondarski and goals by Orion Cameron and Eulalio Perez, rose to 10-2 in the conference and 11-3 overall.
Milford, meanwhile, saw its chances for the conference title slip away with the loss and Dover's clinching 4-0 win over Seaford on Tuesday. The Bucs, at 9-2-1 in the conference and 11-3-1 overall, should still be in the tournament field.
The 11 wins should also have assured the Knights of a tournament berth. And if they win their final two matches, they would not only earn a higher seeding in the tournament, but they would also match last season's win total.
Neither of those scenarios seemed likely after Central had lost to Indian River for the second time, 2-1, on Sept. 27. At 3-3, the Knights were struggling without Dilmar Perez, the leading scorer for last year's 13-3 team.
But since that loss, the Knights have gone unbeaten in October, with consecutive wins over Polytech, Woodbridge, Caesar Rodney, Seaford, Sussex Tech, Mt. Pleasant, Delmar and Milford.
In the win over the Bucs, the Knights were actually outshot 17-10, but Dondarski's 12 saves, including a clutch sliding kick save on a breakaway by Milford's Janel Legros in the last two minutes, saved the Knights as Milford challenged the goal repeatedly in the second half.
Bryce Plummer pulled Milford within 2-1 at the 29:33 mark of the second half, and the Bucs continued to pressure the Knight defense from there on out.
The Bucs, though, were never able to completely overcome the first half scores by SC's Cameron and Eulalio Perez.
With 23:54 remaining in the first half, Cameron got the Knights on the board first by banging home a free kick off the crossbar and into the bottom of the net.
The Knights got their insurance goal near the end of the first half when Perez tracked down a long pass from Trey Bell and poked it into the right corner of the net.
23:54 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (1-0 Central)
3:11 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (2-0 Central)
29:33 -- MILFORD (2-1 Central)
Shots -- Milford 17, Sussex Central 10.
Corner Kicks -- Milford 0, Sussex Central 1.
Saves -- Ryan Sutcliffe (M) 6, Mike Dondarski (SC) 12.
Sussex Central head coach Kevin Cash on the win:
"It's 8 straight wins against some incredible opponents that are ranked in the state and playing great ball, and Milford's been a hot team. We stepped up, played another outstanding team game. We did get a little defensive near the end and allowed Milford to get a little more pressure than what we allowed earlier in the game, but that's just time in tight games. The boys came through, they played hard when they needed it, came up with a couple big plays. My hat goes off to them."
Cash on holding Milford off down the stretch:
"I think the first half, for 35 to 40 minutes, we controlled most of the play. Milford generated one or two plays in the first two or three minutes, but from that point on I thought we controlled it until Milford scored in the second half. In the last 25 minutes, they kept the pressure on us. They fought back. They wanted it. They're a good team."
Cash on Eulalio Perez, who scored a goal and kept Milford's defense on its heels all night with breakaway attempts:
"Eulalio played an outstanding game. When he gets the ball on his feet and he squares off with you, he's one of the best corners in the business. We just need to get him passing a little bit more, working with give-and-gos, and it would have been a little bit more effective. But he played a great game."
Cash on goalkeeper Mike Dondarski:
"Mike Dondarski came up big in the last seconds of the game but the defense came up with a couple nice saves also, so it goes hand-in-hand. But Mike Dondarski, in the last seconds, saved the game. He saved us from going 20 more minutes (in overtime)."
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