Prep boys soccer: Rams top Panthers for 2-0 start

INTERLACHEN – Boys soccer coach Roger Lloyd may just have something good going on at Interlachen High School this season.

“We are benefitting from the year round soccer the team plays, which enhances their skills tremendously,” Lloyd said. “And we’ve added players who were gone last year like Kason Bell and Daniel Perez and we’ve been playing like a team.”

Perez was a big factor in Tuesday night’s 4-1 win at Thompson-Baker Stadium over Palatka, scoring three goals, two of which came on perfect corner kicks into the box by Lloyd’s son, Austin, a freshman.

“The recipe is here for a great season,” Lloyd said after his team improved to 2-0, having outscored its two opponents, Palatka and West Nassau, by a 6-1 margin. “This team is going to accomplish more than any team I’ve had here. They’ve just worked hard and the skill level has improved dramatically. Combine that with our maturity and add the speed we’ve been missing and this makes more for a complete team.”

The Rams also remembered the two losses they suffered to the Panthers a year ago when they didn’t score in either game.

“I kind of saw this coming,” said Rams senior captain Nico Calero, who scored the first goal of the game on a penalty kick at 15:34. “I think we’re as close as we ever have been to a (district) title. As long as we stay together and not rush our chemistry, we’re going to be good.”

The game stayed 1-0 throughout most of the first half until the Rams began surging. Perez took a rebound from near the 18-yard line, pushed the ball forward and scored with 4:17 left before the half to make it 2-0. Then with 1:53 left before halftime, they got their sixth corner kick try. Austin Lloyd put a perfect shot just beyond starting goalie Keonte Shack (two saves) and behind him where Perez head-balled the shot in, making it 3-0.

“All summer, Austin was working on that corner kick shot into the box every day,” his father said. “Every day he was out there trying to perfect it and now you can see the results.”

The Panthers, playing their first game under new coach Jeff Malandrucco, cut the lead to 3-1 at 51:33 when Caleb Herrington took a perfect lead pass from Felix Aboytes, beat a defender, than put the ball behind Rams goalie Juan Espinoza to cut the lead to 3-1. The Panthers also had a chance to cut the lead to a goal when Zach Borom, one of two PHS seniors, put a 25-yard shot that hit a leaping Espinoza’s hand and off the cross bar on the upper right-hand side of the goal. The ball came to Aboytes, but he could not get the ball anywhere near the goalkeeper with Rams defenders in front and in pursuit.

Three minutes later, the Rams put it away when Perez scored on another headball off another perfectly placed corner kick shot by the younger Lloyd, this time beyond backup goalie William Clevenger (no saves).

“We start two seniors with Felix and Matt Reed,” Malandrucco said. “Even if we close to (3-2), we’re still down and have to stay on attack. I know we’re going to be young and we have had limited time together because of football. We’re going to keep working. We’re just not accustomed to finishing.”

Espinoza stopped five shots in the win.

“When I first got here (in 2012), we had not won in a long time,” Lloyd said. “We had to change the culture and now you see what’s happened. This group just keeps blossoming.”

Palatka Daily News

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