FARMINGDALE — Not much in the way of soccer philosophy was groundbreaking Friday afternoon at Simmons Field, but what the Hall-Dale and Richmond girls teams did was prove once again that games are decided square in the middle of the park.

The Bulldogs are blessed with experience and skill at the heart of their 3-5-2 formation, relying on a back line of Savannah Millay, Kayla Lee and Samantha Thornton with a trio of central midfielders offering support in front of them. One of those midfield three, sophomore Rita Benoit, handed Hall-Dale its only goal in a 1-1 draw.

“We’ve been connected as a team,” said Hall-Dale senior Naomi Lynch, who has paired with classmate Sarah Benner to grow from players learning on the fly two years ago to the route through which all Bulldog traffic is likely to flow today. “We’ve been trying out a new formation, so it’s been harder for the backs. We have to help back a little bit (as midfielders), and I think it’s working.”

The Bulldogs (2-2-1) seemed in control throughout the festivities, having allowed just two targeted shots in the match’s first hour. It was precisely the type of game Hall-Dale has emphasized this fall, and given the play they were able to control throughout the midfield, it’s easy to see why the lone concern for the Bulldogs has been the ability to finish.

To prove the case in point, three times the Hall-Dale attack found the woodwork, including once in extra time.

In other games this season, including a shutout loss to Oak Hill, generating attacking play through the midfield hasn’t been the problem. The lack of a finishing touch has, however.

“It’s funny because we have these diagrams that show when you don’t have the ball you play good defense, you look for the mistake, step in, take possession,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “Then you create a good possession that creates a good scoring chance, and then you finish. We’re about four-fifths of the way there. It’s going to happen.”

For Richmond, which took advantage of a rare miscue in the back from Hall-Dale to slot home Leah Wescott’s equalizer in the 66th minute, it was a bit of a slog on Friday — at least until finding life through Wescott’s strike.

It’s indicative of the type of season the Bobcats find themselves in. Regionalized scheduling has eliminated the weaker Class D teams that the program has feasted on in years past, replaced now by Class B and Class C teams with tournament pedigrees. At 2-1-1, Richmond has faced Lisbon, Temple, Oak Hill and Hall-Dale already with others like Monmouth still lurking.

It’s certainly forced head coach Troy Kendrick to look at the bigger picture of the process overall and less at the day-to-day results.

“We knew going into this season that we were going to have our hands full,” Kendrick said. “We’re taking it as a great experience for our underclassmen to play this really competitive schedule. There’s no nights off.

It’s nerve-wracking, and the kids can get frustrated and the coaches can get frustrated, but I really like the way we’ve dug down.”

Where a team like Hall-Dale willfully funnels everything through the middle, Richmond is still trying to find the right mix that will give it some presence in the central midfield. Too often, the Bobcats have settled for long balls over the top trying to create speed.

“I’ve ended up asking one of my strikers to drop back into the midfield,” Kendrick said. “We had a good little stretch in the first half where we were sort of banging away at it, but I think they kind of had us back on our heels.”

One thing Hall-Dale has had to do is create its own energy. Lynch, and others, relished the chance to play an overtime game Friday — something which provides a shot of adrenaline in otherwise sterile environments.

“It’s been insanely different,” Lynch said. “I just crave that energy. It’s so different, especially with no fans here. I’m glad we got to have this opportunity we’re missing without any playoffs or championships.”

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