Manteo and First Flight both poised for success

This has been a great year for local high school soccer. As of this writing, the Manteo boys hold second place in the state 1A MaxPreps rankings and the First Flight boys hold the top spot in the same rankings for 2A schools.

This may be the first time that our local teams have held such high rankings at the same time. First Flight has a history of lofty rankings, but it’s been a number of years since Manteo soccer has been so strong. Year-round training and good coaching are responsible for the success of these teams.

The playoff brackets will be out on Wed. Oct. 31 and the first games are to be on Sat. Nov. 3. It’s likely both teams will have the home field advantage deep into the playoffs. What else can be expected from them?

Manteo is led by Captain Erik Hernandez. Erik’s ability to understand the game and his technical ability make him one of the best players on the field. He’s very good at keeping the ball. Expect him to get the ball to his teammates in places where they’ll have a great opportunity to score.

Another player that has made a difference for Manteo this year is Landon Taylor. Landon covers a ton of ground and is excellent at quickly breaking up the other team’s attacks. Expect Landon to help Manteo dominate possession throughout the playoffs.

On defense, both Bryson Casey and Jose Valesco have played key roles in Manteo’s perfect conference record. Both players are smart defenders and Manteo won’t face many attackers with Jose’s speed.

In reality, this team has good players all over the field and that’s what it takes to succeed. Good opponents will look for a weak link and will force the ball toward that weak link. Teams coming to the Redskins home field will have a hard time finding a weak link.

First Flight re-loaded after graduating five starters with state championship rings. First Flight’s defense is anchored by Charlie Kitchin. Charlie and the rest of the defense allowed only one goal in conference play this year. Charlie has very good positioning, and is as strong a player as you’ll see at the high school level.

In the mid-field, Gage Bernard is similar to Manteo’s Erik Hernandez in game intelligence. Gage is excellent at finding space on the field and making defenses pay for little mistakes. Expect First Flight to have the majority of possessions. On the front-line, Trent Powell and Wade Denzin have been combining to score goals for First Flight all year. Both are extremely dangerous to defenses, with and without the ball. Like Manteo, this team is blessed with talent at every position.

Many things have to happen for a team to make it to the soccer state championship final in Raleigh. An unlucky decision by a referee or a key injury often causes teams to be eliminated. Both Manteo and First Flight have the talent and coaching to get to that sixth and final game. They also should have home field advantage until a final game Raleigh. That’s a huge advantage because of the Outer Banks’ remote location. Most good teams in the Eastern Region will have to ride at least four hours in a school bus before playing.

This could be a special year for Outer Banks soccer. Even if you are not a big soccer fan, please come out and cheer on these young men. They’ve worked so hard year-round to be in this position. You can expect great soccer and who knows…there’s a chance both teams make it all the way to the state finals.

Jeff Scott is President of Scott Team Realty and a coach at the OBX Storm Soccer Club.


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