DOBSON — Soccer season is in full force at Surry Central High School. Players have hit their stride and are facing tougher and tougher opponents each week, learning and adapting from each experience. The Golden Eagles did battle with a much-improved Atkins squad who nearly stole one in Dobson.
Surry Central is playing its second of three games in a week’s time, yet showed no signs of fatigue in the early going. Central regulated the pace of the game immediately and scored in the fourth minute off a beautiful set-piece. The ball was sent into the box by Axel Rangel, redirected by Miguel Tello, and finished by Hernan Garcia, just like Coach Blake Roth drew it up.
It looked like another easy victory for the Eagles when Rangel nearly set up the same play just minutes later. Camel keeper Roman Robinson, who had a busy night ahead, read the play and intercepted the initial feed. Robinson started a counterattack for Atkins to give the Camels their first threatening offense of the game, putting pressure on Central keeper Ivan Padilla.
Just when it seemed Atkins had found its mojo, Miguel Tello converted on a long throw from Nolan McMillian in the 12th minute to put the home team up 2-0. Garcia scored his second goal of the match four minutes later to increase the lead to three. Central was so deadly in the fact that it could start an attack from anywhere on the field. This instant offense made Camel defenders have to constantly be on guard.
Atkins stepped up its defense following the third goal by Surry Central and refused to fold. Traditionally, Atkins soccer has not been very successful. The team has not had a winning record the last five years. This year’s squad must not have got that memo, because they were in it until the final whistle. When Central transitioned into a more offensive style of play as opposed to maintaining possession, Atkins took advantage. The Camels were able to contain Tello and the Eagles’ strikers better, and create attacks of their own.
Despite their ability to make runs, Atkins struggled to put the ball past Padilla. Having to put so many men back on defense to protect against a Central attack limited the offense the Camels could create. Rangel and Tello were the workhorses for the Eagles and tried to put the game out of reach for the duration of the half.
Atkins slowly built up a better offense and reaped the rewards of its efforts when Israel Zeferino sent the ball flying over Padilla’s head and into the Surry Central goal in minute 34. The Camels kept fighting until the end of the half and even had a yellow card given to Marcos Toledo. Despite only notching three shots to Central’s nine, Atkins was still in the match.
The second half began with the Camels now gunning for the goal with a beautiful set piece. Though unable to capitalize, the intensity from Atkins was noticeably greater than the first half. Little play took place in the middle of the field as both teams traded shots in the early going, with neither able to find the back of the net.
Atkins adapted a more physical style of play in the second half, and it seemed to affect the Eagles’ offense. The Camels struck first when Donnie Leahy scored on a pass from Ali Mirzazadeh. The score was now 3-2 with just more than 30 minutes left on the clock.
Then Atkins made a critical mistake by fouling Surry Central outside the box. Central had been precise with their free kicks all night and put another one on target that was deflected by the keeper but cleaned up by Chaco Sanchez to extend the Eagle lead to 4-2.
If Atkins had the intensity at a 10 before, consider the dial turned up to 11 following the fourth goal by Surry Central. Play became more chippy and players expressed a tenacity toward each other unseen all match. Central nearly extended the lead when Garcia was fouled in the box, but Garcia shot wide and the ball bounced off the left post.
Central attempted a barrage of shots on the Camel goalie but were unable to finish. Atkins then took its turn at pressuring the opposing keeper, but saw similar results. Players were going at each other and neither coach seemed satisfied with the officials control of the game. Moises Alcivar received a yellow card in the 70th minute and the physicality just got worse.
Players were taking shots at each other both on and off the ball. A collision between Atkins’ Robinson and a Central player was the tipping point, as players began exchanging verbal remarks. No violence resulted, but it was evident that these teams wouldn’t be exchanging Christmas cards this holiday season. Both coaches took time to speak to their respective team as Robinson was being tended to, preaching level-headedness for the remaining few minutes.
The teams continued to fight until the final whistle. Riley Templeton for Surry Central received a yellow card in the 77th minute, but other than that the game ended as smoothly as it could and Surry Central walked away the victor.
Central is now 7-1 and will host Starmount on Friday. Atkins falls to 4-3-1 and will host rival Walkertown on September 18.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith