Cavaliers win with depth
By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 16, 2001
TYLER, Texas Johnson County's plan to wear down the Meridian Community College Eagles with depth paid off with a 2-1 upset in the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA Division I Men's National Soccer Tournament.
The Cavaliers used several substitutes throughout the game. One key change-over came with about 18 minutes to go. The fresh troops helped pave the way for Johnson County to grab the winning goal with 8:42 left on a one-yard boot by Daniel Jirenga.
Ironically, the Cavaliers lost one of their starters on the go-ahead play when Brian Wittenboro broke his ankle after Meridian keeper Eric Stewart came down with the ball following a free kick.
Even Wittenboro carted off, the Cavs kept pressing. A worn down Meridian club could not muster a strong enough challenge in the final eight minutes.
Meridian Head Coach Steve Clements said his Eagles were limited depth wise by injury and inexperience.
For Johnson County Head Coach Fatai Ayaode, his bench literally saved the day.
Meridian's standout forward Garthfield Whyte felt Johnson County's depth was a big factor in the loss.
Freshman defender Chris McAilly agreed.
Things, though, should go better for the Eagles in the future. Of the 14 players who played, only three were sophomores. They include Whyte, sweeper Cecil Noyce and goal-keeper Eric Stewart.
Meridian showed plenty of athleticism and speed from its forwards in freshmen Mahlon Sullivan, Chris Beard and Kevin King. Freshmen subs Stuart Wainwright, Trey Alexander and Tyler Talkington all played valuable minutes.
The Eagles' lone goal came on a freshmen combination. Defender Shaun Van Heerden fed an open Beard for a 10-yard goal kick for a 1-0 lead. McAilly who had a pair of strong shots on goal in the early part of the game is another key freshmen.
The Eagles will attempt to bounce back in a consolation game today at 2 p.m. against the loser of the Bryant &Stratton-Louisburg game.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. He can be reached at 693-1551 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.