SMYRNA — Caesar Rodney High has been here before, of course.
And the Riders have come away from each of their four previous trips to the DIAA girls’ soccer state finals without a championship trophy.
But CR’s players say there’s no reason the fifth time can’t be the charm.
The second-seeded Riders earned their fifth trip to the state title game with a decisive 6-0 victory over No. 6 Appoquinimink in the Division I semifinals at Smyrna on Friday night.
The one-sided win sends CR (15-1-1) up against top-seeded Padua (16-0-1), the three-time defending champion, on Monday at Smyrna. The Division I finals will follow the Division II title game between Indian River and Caravel, which starts at 5 p.m.
Certainly CR is feeling pretty good about itself after jumping out to a 3-0 halftime lead over the Jaguars (12-5) before cruising into the state finals for the second straight season.
“I don’t know if we can play any better than that,” said coach Darrell Gravatt. “Hopefully we can. We keep going up. Man, I thought we looked good.
“We started slow but we just kept getting better throughout the game.”
The Riders broke the game open with three goals in the final 11 minutes of the first half — including two in the last two minutes.
First, Aleya Cummings ran onto a ball and won control away from the Appo defender. Going in uncontested on goal, she simply slid a left-footed shot past the goalie and into the far side of the goal.
Rebekah Bernat picked up an assist on the pass that got the run started.
In the last two minutes, Moore took a crossing pass from Rachel Smith and headed it nicely inside the post to make it a 2-0 advantage for CR.
“That was one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen,” said Gravatt. “It’s about as much body-weight transfer as you can ever have on a header. She really went back and then forward. It was just textbook. It’s like how you put it on a video.”
“I just jump as high as I can because I know I’m the shortest one on the field,” said the 5-foot Moore. “I’ve got to put a little ‘oomph’ on it.
“I knew it was coming. It was sitting in the air. I was like, ‘I’ve got to head this.’”
But Moore and the Riders weren’t done yet. This time Moore used her speed to get past a defender going down the left side for a ball sent ahead to her by Lynsy Gruwell.
Once she was free, Moore slid a low shot to the right of the goalie as CR’s lead suddenly balooned to 3-0 just before intermission.
CR didn’t let the Jaguars get any momentum going in the second half, either.
Less than five minutes into the half, Gruwell got off a shot of her own from the middle of the field. Again the low shot found the net for a 4-0 Riders’ lead.
With just over 22 minutes remaining, Moore picked up her third goal of the night, this time on a free kick, to make it 5-0.
Jameah Nixon’s late goal accounted for the final margin. The Riders outshot Appo, 10-3, in the contest.
Now CR’s players will set their sights on Padua, who they lost to 5-1 on April 18. They’ve lost five in a row to the Pandas and are 0-3 against them in state title games.
The Riders, though, say they’ll go into Monday’s game believing they have a chance.
“We know how they play, we know how they are,” said Moore. “We’ve been to the state finals plenty of times. We’ve just got to relax and play our game.”
“I think, even if they score first, we’ve really got to keep our heads up,” said Gruwell. “We’ve got to come out with a lot of intensity and put the pedal to the metal right away. Our coach always tells us that he believes in us. And we believe in ourselves. ... We believe we can beat them.”
“It seems like most years they get the first goal,” said Gravatt. “We’re always trying to come from behind. Against a team like that, that’s extremely tough. Maybe if we can get the first goal it might be a little different.
“I think most people probably think that to be honest with you,” Gravatt said about Padua being heavily favored. “They’ve won the last three in a row. It’s fine. The game will be played and anything can happen. We’ll do the best we can.”