TAMPA — Soccer is a game played with your feet, but Ben Wiley's arms are Sickles' best weapon. His throw-ins are deadly. Laser like. Demoralizing.
"It's great," said Sickles coach Tony Calvo, whose Gryphons coasted to an impressive 3-0 win over Charlotte in a Class 5A quarterfinal, two of the goals coming thanks to Wiley's wiles.
Despite a slow start and some troubles clearing balls out of the box, Sickles (22-1-3) thoroughly dominated the middle of the field in winning its first playoff game. Charlotte (7-11-2) had one good chance to put the Gryphons in a hole after a misplay in the back, but hit the post instead of an empty net in the 15th minute.
From that point, it was all Sickles, which outshot Charlotte 8-1. Wiley's low lineshot throw-in to the backpost found Eric Krukar's foot for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute, and in the second half another Wiley throw-in was redirected toward the net before defender Christopher Joyce had no choice but to intentionally use his hand to stop it.
He was ejected via the rare blue card, and Carlos Rodriguez converted the penalty kick for the Gryphons.
"I should have had two assists," Wiley said, laughing. "Usually the other team doesn't expect that (kind of) a throw-in, and it catches them off guard. Their keeper was coming out for them, so on that first goal I was just trying to go to the backpost where he couldn't get it."
Two minutes after Rodriguez's penalty kick, Matt Brown outraced a defender and the onrushing keeper to a long ball from Krukar to cap off scoring.