Mount Airy entered Tuesday’s match against Calvary Day with two streaks on the line: no goals allowed and wins. Though only one of those streaks would survive the 80-minute battle, Mount Airy emerged with a 4-1 victory and is now 9-0 on the season.
Granite Bear coach Will Hurley said finally having a goal scored against them will help the team in the long run.
“Going into it, I kept telling kids it was going to happen eventually, so don’t get your heads down. Just turn it into ‘Hey, we need to score now,” Hurley said. “And that’s what they did.”
Calvary Day was Mount Airy’s biggest obstacle to date. The team’s felt each other out for the opening minutes to get a feel of what was in store. The first offensive run of the game came by the Granite Bears with a shot in the seventh minute. In classic Mount Airy fashion, they attacked after tasting blood in the water. Julio Contreras sent a ball speeding past the Cougar keeper Colby Hales for the first goal of the match.
Calvary Day gave Mount Airy keeper Jesus Valadez his biggest scare to date in the 13th minute. But there is a reason Valadez has eight shutouts on the season, as he kept hugging the ball and kept his scoreless streak alive. Tensions were high between the teams, resulting in a yellow card for Calvary coach Ben Kerth. His team did not shy away from contact and it nearly cost them early. Robert Brown took two free kicks just outside the 18-yard line for the Bears and just missed wide each time.
Things started to go the Cougars’ way in the 16th minute. The mid-field of Calvary Day was able to maneuver with fantastic ball control, the best the Bears have faced all season. The fruits of their labor resulted in a run up the middle by Josiah Winters. Winters sent the ball to Will Burgess, who broke the previous impenetrable wall that was the Mount Airy goal. The game was tied 1-1 with 20 minutes remaining in the half.
Hurley hoped his team would respond when finally scored on, and they did exactly that. Austin Tumbarello added to his impressive point total for the season with a goal in minute 24. This boost of momentum lead to another goal in minute 28, when Bryan Valadez scored off a corner kick from Contreras. The ball bounced around the six-yard box and was thrust past the keeper by Valadez to extend the lead to 3-1.
Mount Airy in the first half was able to make quick runs leading to scoring opportunities at a moment’s notice. Alternatively, Calvary controlled the pace for much of the first half, something the Bears haven’t dealt with this season. Despite the Mount Airy lead on the scoreboard, the team’s were tied in both shots and saves.
The second half opened with each team taking their turn to make a dangerous run. Jarod Godwin for Calvary was dangerously close to scoring on a header but it went a little too high. After the first ten minutes of the half, Mount Airy took control of the match. Contreras was shooting from any distance and making the keeper sweat. Hales did well to contain the offensive barrage, but wasn’t able to stop a header from Contreras that came from Bryan Valadez’s corner in the 52nd minute, extending the Bear lead to 4-1.
Mount Airy’s defense showed up big in the second half. A lineup and formation change allowed for Brown and Jackson Tumbarello to halt most Cougar attacks. Unlike the first half, Mount Airy clearly regulated the pace of the game in the second half and kept the ball out of Bear territory. This forced Calvary Day to bring more men back on defense, which limited its offensive power.
Players were going at it to score, and it resulted in numerous fouls on both sides. Matthwer McCaffrey of Calvary Day received a yellow card in minute 66 and the match was essentially over after that. The Cougars couldn’t put together a threatening run and Mount Airy ran the clock out to gain its ninth victory on the season.
Mount Airy’s schedule only gets harder from here in their pursuit for perfection. The Bears travel to Alleghany Wednesday and then to Surry Central on Saturday. Calvary Day falls to 9-4-1 and will travel to Westchester Country Day Friday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith