Somerset Canyons Cougars, American Heritage Stallions boys football game

BOYNTON BEACH – The Somerset Canyons boys’ football team faced American Heritage in a hotly contested 2-2 draw on Wednesday night, adding another chapter to what has become one of the county’s most exciting rivalries of Palm Beach.

Between the recent increase in hospitality for Somerset and the visitors’ long tenure as a premier program, it might have seemed easy to separate David from Goliath on the pitch.

Not so.

After three straight years of narrow playoff losses against the mighty Stallions (2-3-6), it was the Cougars (9-3-1) who played on the front foot, putting pressure on Heritage with excellent possession and a myriad of quality opportunities.

The Cougars took a 2-0 lead, capped by a penalty shot on the spot by the team captain Charles Verzaal.

But even in the face of a deficit, Heritage’s counterattack proved deadly. Anthony Vargas and Sean Raines found the back of the net in the second half, ending the draw in spectacular fashion.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s action-packed contest:

The finesse of Somerset in full screen

Without a doubt, the first half of Wednesday’s game belonged to the Cougars. Somerset’s side controlled the pace for the first 40 minutes, stringing together long clean possessions that kept the ball almost perpetually in their attacking half.

“With a 2-0 lead I think we dominated the game from the start,” said Somerset head coach Eric De Sousa. “It’s pretty clear. Obviously they’re a talented squad and they have weapons, but I think when it comes to a squad versus a squad we dominated them.

The continued pressure resulted in several fouls from the Heritage players, setting up a number of free kicks – and by the end of the first half it paid off for the Cougars.

In the last minute before the half-time whistle, Isaac Elorrieta threw a free kick towards the goal, beating the Heritage goalkeeper for the first score of the game.

This momentum continued in the second half with the penalty from Verzaal, which followed a hard tackle slipped on a Cougars midfielder in the box.

“I looked the keeper right in the face,” said Verzaal. “He said, ‘I know where you’re going, I know where you’re going,’ and I said, ‘Okay, good for you. I looked right into his eyes and I knew where I was going to hit him, and I just hit the ball as true as I could.

No game out of reach for the talented Heritage team

With a 2-0 deficit with less than 30 minutes to go, many teams would have folded.

But as Somerset has learned over the years, Heritage is not one of those teams.

“I studied them and saw that if you fall asleep for a second, they will punish you,” De Sousa said.

As Somerset built on the pressure, taking advantage of the mistakes the Stallions made in the first half, it was the Stallions’ vicious counterattack that catapulted them back into the race.

After Verzaal’s penalty kick, it took Vargas less than two minutes to halve the deficit as the talented senior descended the pitch, beat his defender and passed the ball past the Somerset keeper.

“It’s a very strong team, but like any high school team there are definitely weaknesses,” said Heritage head coach Victor Sanchez. “I wanted to try to capitalize on these areas. In football, it’s about who makes the most mistakes and who capitalizes on those mistakes. They capitalized on our mistakes, and we were also fortunate enough to capitalize on their mistakes. “

Soon after, Sean Raines pulled in a clean through pass, took advantage of a bad touch from a Somerset defender and pushed him back to the bottom corner.

“We played them three times [in my career] and we never lost to them, ”Raines said. “I wasn’t trying to lose to them in my senior year.”

Somerset and Heritage enjoy flourishing rivalry

Both teams took advantage of the positive points of the match. As Somerset got off to a hot start, the second half saw Heritage gain momentum – in the end it took an impressive save from Cougars goalkeeper Ethan Schaney just to preserve the tie.

“To be down 2-0, the boys showed a lot of character and resilience to fight back,” said Sanchez. “I was really proud that they were able to overcome this deficit, this hole that we had dug.

The back-and-forth affair served as a high-intensity reminder of the rivalry that has developed over the past three years, a period that has seen the two footballing behemoths face off in the playoffs every season.

Although Somerset has lost every year, the games have gradually grown closer and De Sousa believes a change of guard is just around the corner.

“I do. I feel confident to say ‘yes’, and I think they do too, so I look forward to the next one,” said the Somerset coach.

Heritage, which has grown used to having a target on its back, is welcoming the next chapter in the rivalry.

Even as a new coach on the historic program, Sanchez knows the importance of the brief history of these two programs, both on and off the field.

“These kids are right next to each other,” he said. “A lot of them know each other. It’s the beauty, it’s these types of rivalries. I look forward to all competitions, all rivalries. Yes, American Heritage might be a great brand, but we have to earn it every day. So we look forward to these types of rivalries.

Somerset still has two regular season games left, while Wednesday’s game was Heritage’s regular season finale.

If this year’s playoffs are a repeat of the last three, it might not be long before these two teams face off again.

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