The Granite Bears advanced to the second round of the 1A state playoffs with a 2-1 overtime victory.
For 70 minutes, Mount Airy and South Stokes battled back and forth with neither team giving an inch. The Bears had a few tries, but the South Stokes keeper kept the net clean.
Then the Sauras scored with 10:17 to play, and the Bears responded.
With an energized team and home crowd, Mount Airy attacked again and again in the final 10 minutes. The Bears scored once and very nearly took the lead in regulation. Then in overtime, the Bears scored the only goal to advance to Saturday’s second round.
The Bears came into the match with a lopsided advantage in the won-loss column. Mount Airy was 14-8-1 in the regular season, while the Sauras were 4-15-2 with just one win in the Northwest Conference.
However, the Sauras’ record is deceiving. South Stokes gave up 9 goals in two losses to West Stokes and 15 goals in two losses to North Surry. Since that time, however, the Sauras have buckled down.
In the previous three games, South Stokes was 1-1-1 with a 1-all tie of Bishop, a narrow 2-1 loss to Mount Airy and a 6-4 win over East Surry.
In the first half Wednesday, the Bears controlled the ball, but couldn’t come up with a goal.
South Stokes didn’t have any good looks in the first half, but got close to the goal a few times in the second half. Three times a Saura put a head on the ball inside the keeper’s box, but the ball bounced off-target.
Then with 10 minutes left, the Sauras blasted a free kick toward the goal and deflected it into the upper left corner past keeper Alex Mayo’s fingertips.
With about six minutes left, the Bears got the ball on the right sideline. Daylon Shaw called out to Felipe Chavez, then threw a long pass down the right side.
Chavez chased it down with two defenders missing on chances to steal the ball. Then just as he entered the 18-yard box, a defender knocked Chavez down for a penalty kick.
Mitchell Brown went low left. The keeper got a glove on the shot, but not enough to deflect it as Mount Airy tied the game with 4:55 left.
After a Saura was given a red card ejection, the Bears nearly took the lead.
Co-captain Carlos Carrillo, who normally defends the back line, was pushed up about 25 yards from the goal. He made a nifty move to fake out his defender, then sent a low screamer toward the left corner.
Like the penalty kick, the keeper got there, but couldn’t make a clean save. This time, however, the ball trickled away from the goal, and none of the Bears were close enough to finish off the play.
The whole back line played well, said Coach Will Hurley. Carrillo had 52 clears, knocking away the Sauras’ attack over and over.
In overtime, neither team scored in the first 10-minute period. Then about a minute into the second period, Sam Watson passed to Brown for the second goal.
“Mitchell nailed it,” said Hurley.
Hurley admitted he was worried about this game. South Stokes has gotten better over the course of the season, and the last game was very close and hard-fought.
The Sauras have had issues this season with players going out of the game or being suspended because of yellow cards and red cards. However, the full lineup was available for Wednesday’s game.
The coach said the game had an excellent officiating crew who controlled the action and players well.
The Bears (15-8-1) will play at Central Academy (16-4-1) on Saturday. Because the school is down near the South Carolina border, Hurley said he is pushing for a 5 p.m. start time.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.