EHS boys squeeze out tie on narrow Canterbury field

Imagine Michael Phelps trying to swim the 200 meter butterfly in a bathtub.

Or Jeff Gordon going into turn three on your driveway.

Canterbury's Brandon O'Toole reaches a header against Estero's Robert Rojas.

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON, Banner

Canterbury's Brandon O'Toole reaches a header against Estero's Robert Rojas.

Now picture 22 high school soccer players chasing a black and white ball on a field that is tighter than Augusta's Amen Corner.

"We had to adjust quickly," Estero sweeper Eric Gomez said following the Wildcats' 2-2 tie at the Canterbury School on a chilly Friday night. "We had to figure out in the first half we can't play with so many long balls and the crosses are going to go a little farther than normal, but I think we adjusted quickly in the second half."

Canterbury's field, which is significantly more narrow than typical high school fields, proved to be conducive for an action-packed evening.

"It was very physical," said Estero coach John Robinson. "There was a lot of stuff going on when the refs weren't looking. My players were pretty frustrated."

"I hate it as our home field," said Canterbury coach Mason Goss, "but it probably is an advantage."

Questionable decisions by both goalkeepers led to a pair of easy scores.

First, Estero keeper Mark Rhodes (two saves) came way out to get a loose ball only to collide with teammate John Murray. Brandon O'Toole took advantage of the miscue and fed Jack Stapleton for an open net score that tied the game at 1-1 with three minutes left in the first half.

"Our goalie came out a little early on the first goal," said Robinson. "He should have let his defender go after the ball and then go out and see what happens. He ran out way too early."

Canterbury's Ryan Horvath (eight saves) also ventured too far out on a challenge, and Michael Kelly beat him to the ball, depositing the game-tying goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Jorge Medina and Juan Romero had Estero's best chances to break the tie late in the game.

With Murray and Gomez winning most of the 50/50s, Estero dominated the first 20 minutes, but didn't score.

"We're struggling shooting," said Gomez. "If we can finish at the net we can definitely put games away faster. Hopefully by districts we'll start stepping it up and finish more."

Estero's Curtis Johnson, left, gets a step in on Canterbury's Kyle Molzan in the second half of Friday night's 2-2 tie in Fort Myers.

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON, Banner

Estero's Curtis Johnson, left, gets a step in on Canterbury's Kyle Molzan in the second half of Friday night's 2-2 tie in Fort Myers.

Friday's game was the first for Estero in the 2006. The Wildcats, who entered this week an 8-5-3 overall record and 5-0-0 district record, had not played since a 3-0 loss against Mariner on Dec. 8. Robinson said he was disappointed with turnout at practices during the break.

Canterbury was coming off a 4-2 loss against Evangelical Christian School the night before facing Estero.

"We played a hard game (the previous night) against ECS and it took a little something out of us," said Goss. "So we were playing a little tired, and also maybe a little intimidated. (Playing) a bigger school it's tough for the little guy. Compared to us, (Estero) is a very physical and very fast team."

Curtis Johnson gave Estero a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half when his shot from the top of the box bounced off Canterbury mid-fielder Hunter Hutchins and into the net.

After the teams took a 1-1 tie into halftime, the second half began on an ominous note for Estero when defender Donnie Keller was cut in the back of his head by the cleats of Rhodes following a goalmouth collision.

Keller eventually came back wearing a head bandage, but during his absence Stapleton notched his second goal on a feed from Hutchins.

It won't take long to find out how much of a factor a larger field will play when the teams facing each other Jan. 17 at Estero.

"I think you'll see a different game on a bigger field," said Robinson. "It will make a bigger difference for us."

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