Ringgold leaves no doubt by beating BV

BELLE VERNON – For the fourth time over the past two seasons, Ringgold and Belle Vernon played a tightly contested soccer match in Section 3-AAA.

On Thursday night, the Rams recorded a 2-1 overtime win to clinch the section title on the road at James Weir Stadium.

“This speaks for itself now,” said Ringgold coach Steve Persaud, referring to those who doubted his team. “This is for them and I dedicate this to them. This was the kind of game we expected.”

Belle Vernon coach Rob Miele was impressed with Ringgold.

“Ringgold is a good team and they played a tremendous game,” he said. “I thought we had a couple of chances late in the game, but we couldn’t find the back of the net.

“There is no shame in losing by a goal to that team.”

Belle Vernon (6-2-1, 10-2-1) started fast in the opening 10 minutes, and it almost caught Ringgold (7-0-2, 8-3-2) off guard 21 seconds into the match when Hunter Martin put a shot on goal. But Ringgold goalkeeper Travis Yahnite made a diving save.

“Anytime you play at home and especially in a rivalry game, you want to start fast,” Miele said. “Hunter did what he was supposed to do but their goalie made the save.”

The Leopards took the first eight shots of the match, and controlled most of the opening 20 minutes. Wyatt Kaufman didn’t record Ringgold’s first shot on Belle Vernon’s Cam Guess until 10:41 remained in the first half.

Belle Vernon’s Markello Apodiakos, who entered the game second in the WPIAL with 24 goals, ended the scoring drought with 6:22 to play to give the Leopards a 1-0 lead.

On the play, Jackson Guess split two Ringgold defenders with a perfect pass to find Apodiakos for the only goal of the half.

Both teams had scoring chances early in the second half, and Ringgold began applying pressure. Belle Vernon’s defense bent but would not break.

However, Belle Vernon’s streak of not giving up a goal ended at 757 minutes when with Frankie Lowstetter scored to tie the match with 15:33 to play in regulation.

Ringgold’s Kobe Norfleet played the ball into the goalie’s box and put a shot on Cam Guess, but the ball rebounded out and Lowstetter blasted it into the back of the net.

“Frankie was a starter last year and was out for nine months after he got injured,” Persaud said. “I could not be more happy for that kid.”

With one minute remaining in regulation, Christian Egan played a corner kick towards the net and the Rams got off two shots, but both were blocked before they reached Cam Guess.

Belle Vernon pushed the ball up field, and with 22 seconds to play in regulation, Aaron Brown put a shot on goal that went wide right by inches. Regulation ended and the teams went to overtime for a second time this season.

Needing only a tie to clinch the section title outright, Persaud said his team played to win, and it did just that as Eli Schoedel took a pass from Norfleet and buried it in the back of the net for the win and outright section crown.

“They were collapsing on Eli and I told Kobe he had to push it and create offense,” said Persaud. “That is what he did tonight.”

Persaud said his team was playing to win despite only needing a tie and a key was the team’s strength.

“Here is the thing, we always play for the win,” he said. “I brought my son Demetri Edwards on as a strength coach and people said my methods would burn them out and I didn’t know what I was doing.

“They aren’t saying that now.” Miele said, referring to the end of the winning streak and unscored on streak.

“I thought Cam played well in goal and the defense played tremendous,” he said. “Everything we want to accomplish is in front of us, and what we have done so far is good but we have more to do.”

This was Ringgold’s second one-goal section win over Belle Vernon since last year. Belle Vernon won a one-goal match last year and the team’s played to a 0-0 tie earlier this season.