After graduating 10 of its 11 starters, the Ridgefield High boys soccer team entered the 2018 season with a sense of uncertainty.
One question mark answered in their first game was the Tigers’ ability to come back.
Ridgefield conceded an early goal and then stormed back for a 6-1 victory over Trinity Catholic on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Hollow.
Ruben Mendoza scored two goals for Ridgefield, and Ben Ragland, Drew Conte, Charlie Poremba, and Tristan Brandt added one goal apiece.
“… To be [down] 1-0 against this team, against an opponent that historically doesn’t do too well, was difficult,” said Ridgefield head coach Phil Bergen. “To score six beautiful goals shows that we have it in our legs to do well this season.”
Those legs will get more of a workout this fall: After keeping 25 or more varsity players most years, Bergen has opted for more manageable numbers.
“We have a rather small roster; we pulled up six JV players just to give them some experience for next year,” said Bergen. “But for the most part we have a 19-man roster that has to follow through throughout the season, so we have to be in shape.”
The two teams appeared evenly matched early on Saturday, with both Ridgefield and Trinity Catholic maintaining stretches of possession. However, following a scramble in the box nine minutes into the game, the Crusaders capitalized upon a defensive lapse by the Ridgefield back line and took a 1-0 lead.
Initially, the Tigers failed to take advantage of chances in the final third, although senior midfielder Nick Yulo looked especially dangerous in attack. Eventually, one of his many well-taken crosses fell into the path of junior forward Ben Ragland, who headed the ball home to pull Ridgefield level at 1-1.
The Tigers then took the match by the reins and never let go, controlling most of the possession throughout the rest of the half and constantly threatening the Trinity Catholic goal. The Crusaders had few-to-no chances to score, as Ridgefield’s center-back pairing of Andrew Masciotti and Nicholas Gasparo played exceptionally throughout the match.
Ridgefield went ahead to stay when Mendoza’s wonderful strike from around 25 yards out flew past the Trinity keeper.
The Tigers added two more goals in the closing minutes of the first half. Poremba smashed home a shot, and Mendoza scored on header off a corner kick to make it 4-1 at the break.
Ridgefield maintained its tight grip on the match in the second half, denying Trinity Catholic nearly any scoring chances and continuing its onslaught against the hapless Crusader defense. Early on in the half, a screamer by Mendoza almost found its way into the goal, nearly giving the senior striker an opening-day hat trick.
With around 20 minutes left, Conte finished off a great chance to widen Ridgefield’s lead to 5-1. In the waning moments, a shot by Brandt found the back of the net to end the scoring.