For an undefeated team, Plant City’s boys have flown under the radar for most of the season. Tonight, though, the Raiders get a chance to cement their position at the top of Class 5A-District 8 as it travels to face East Bay at 8 p.m.
The Raiders currently sit on top of the district standings with a 3-0-1 record, two points ahead of Newsome (2-0-2). New coach Stephen Rossiter said after defeating King 4-2 last Friday, his side is feeling confident of success.
“Tonight I think we feel very, very confident,” Rossiter said. “Our guys are very focused, we’ve trained a lot, we’ve developed a lot even before the season started so as a team with our chemistry and everything, I think we feel very confident for East Bay tonight.”
The Raiders have been led by Esgar Montelongo, who has 13 goals this season, and A.J. Black, who has 10. Going up a against a good East Bay defense, led by standout goalkeeper Derrick Miranda, could be a good test for the Raiders, who have averaged five goals per game so far.
“We’ll attack them from the outside, using the whole width of the field,” Rossiter said. “East Bay definitely owes a lot to its defense, and if you underestimate them, you won’t get in and you won’t be able to penetrate their attacking third, so we’re definitely going to use our outside mids a lot tonight, pull those defenders out and try to create opportunities in the attacking third.”
For the Indians, who suffered their first district loss of the season last Tuesday against Newsome, tonight’s game offers a chance to get back into contention for one of the top two seeds in the district. Coach Jonathan Drake is expecting a big challenge for his defense from the Raiders’ attack.
“I know that they have a very strong attack this year,” Drake. “I know we’re going to be challenged a lot in our defense, we’re really going to have to stay composed in the back to be able to compete with them.
“On the other end, with them having such a strong offense, we’re going to have to get some production out of our strikers to be able to stay in the game.”
Drake is looking for strong games from senior strikers Kyle Whiteside and Brandon Walker. With the game being part of senior night for the Indians, Drake said he hopes his side’s experience, and the atmosphere for tonight’s game, provides a boost for the side.
“My guys know what it’s like to have big games go down to the wire, and to really have to put in the entire 80 minutes or 100 minutes if we have overtime,” Drake said. “I think that is going to help us keep our focus and not lose our cool no matter what happens in the early stages of the game.”