Deadlocked in a scoreless game at halftime of Friday's 3A East region first round contest against Glenelg, Atholton coach Roch DeFrances issued his team a challenge.
"We sat them down and told them we weren't happy with the first half. We weren't aggressive going to the ball, were watching too much and we told them that if we wanted to score it had to be by going down the sides," DeFrances said. "I basically told the guys that we still had yet to win a big game this season on this field … it was on them to show me what they were made of."
The Raiders — specifically Dylan Royalty and Chris Johnson — heard the message loud and clear.
Royalty and Johnson each found the net in the second half, leading Atholton to a 2-0 victory at home under the lights. The win advances the Raiders into a meeting against top-seeded River Hill on Tuesday.
"I kept thinking that we have to win this for the seniors and that we can't go home after this game," said Royalty, a junior who broke through for the game's first goal in the first 15 minutes out of halftime. "The past few years we've gone out in the first round and I think we all just wanted to get a playoff win."
Royalty's goal from the left wing, where he made a nifty move and then finished, was the break through score. But the back-breaker proved to be Johnson's tally off a penalty kick with four minutes left in regulation that made it a two-goal game.
Glenelg, which had several quality scoring chances throughout the evening, ultimately never was able to mount a comeback and ended up being shut out for the seventh time this fall.
After losing to Reservoir, 3-1, to close out the regular season last week, DeFrances was pleased with his team's ability to bounce back quickly in the win-or-go-home situation. Now with River Hill on the horizon, he's hoping his team can take the next step after losing an overtime heartbreaker to the Hawks during the regular season.
"I think we know we can match-up with them after that first game, and I'd also like to think we are little more mature now, so we'll see what happens," DeFrances said. "It should be a good game."
The Eagles, playing at home, took advantage of a goal by Tommy Wang early in the first half and held the lead the rest of the way en route to the one-goal win. Wang's goal came courtesy of a quick free kick from about 25 yards out in the 13th minute while the Lightning were still setting up their wall.
Saddled with the lead, Centennial goalie Kevin Wilson ended up making four saves to secure the shutout.