A former soccer star, Girls coach and JV Boys coach at Kenmore East, Chris Robey thought he knew his way around the rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Kenmore West Blue Devils.
But 24 hours before his first game as coach of the Kenmore East Boys Varsity Soccer team, Robey surprisingly found himself nervous for the contest.
“I was up all-night last night,” said Robey, who is taking over this season for longtime coach Rolfe Freidenberg. “I never thought in my first varsity game (as coach) I’d be so nervous for it. It’s a good thing my boys played awesome today.”
Robey’s Bulldogs played lock-down defense as they beat the Blue Devils, 1-0, Friday night at Dick Sparky Adams Field.
“Just knowing that it was going to be a tight game back-and-forth,” Robey said. “Both teams had chances. Every East/West game is competitive.”
Junior captain Spencer Raybuck scored the game’s lone goal with under six minutes left in the first half. Raybuck beat two defenders in front of the net and put it in the near post.
Spencer Raybuck scores from 4 yards away
5:43 left 1st @WNYAthletics
— Francis Boeck (@FrancisBoeck) October 23, 2020
“He works his but off,” Robey said of Raybuck, who leads the team with six goals this season. “He’s super, super fast has great skill and just gets it done. His leadership and composure showed there.”
Midway through the first half, junior Frank Manzella kept Kenmore West off the board when he chased down a streaking Jason Vullo who had breakaway to the net.
In the second half, the Kenmore East defense bunkered down and stopped several strong attempts from the Blue Devils.
That’s been the game plan for the Bulldogs as of late.
“We want to get an early goal and then play more defensively while getting some offense going,” Raybuck said.
Robey couldn’t have picked a stranger year to take over the program.
This year due to COVID-19, Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda UFSD is requiring their players to wear a mask at all times, something not every district is doing.
Robey says the team is handling it like champs.
“The kids have been great,” Robey said. “I give them all the credit for being able to have the composure of wearing the mask and getting it done on the field. Whether it’s the temperature checks or the assertion sheet that they have to fill out every day, they’ve been resilient.”
Beyond the rivalry, Friday night’s game held a special importance in terms of the postseason. This year, in Boys Soccer, teams must be at least .500 in league play to qualify for the playoffs.
With the win, Kenmore East moves to 4-4 with four games left.
Both the Bulldogs and Blue Devils (3-3-1, 5-4-1) are back in action on Tuesday. Kenmore East heads to North Tonawanda for a 7 p.m. kick-off. Kenmore West plays Lockport at 4:45 p.m.
Photos By Shawn Turri/WNYAthletics
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