PILOT MOUNTAIN — Both East and North Surry entered Wednesday’s match in need of a win. The Greyhounds came into the match 4-6, having lost their last match to Surry Central. The Cardinals sat at 4-4 and had won their last two games and were seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season to lift them over .500. The game stats were very similar, but North Surry led the category that counts and won 3-0.
East Surry had opportunities to score throughout the match, but failed to put the ball in the net. The Cardinals came out of the gate looking to score when Javier Ruiz intercepted the Hounds’ opening kickoff. The stout North Surry defense denied the shot attempt, which was a theme that would be prevalent in the match.
Despite an early push by East Surry, North Surry used a defense-first mentality to create runs into Cardinal territory. The Hounds were the more aggressive team and it showed immediately. Javier Vera sent a corner kick perfectly into the six-yard box of the Cardinals to be put away by Vincent Hernandez in minute five.
North Surry had opportunities to add to its lead soon after the first goal, but failed to put the ball on target. This allowed East Surry to regroup and try to get the offense going. This task was easier said than done, because even when the Cards penetrated the great wall of North Surry defense, often done on free kicks by Gonzalo Chavez, keeper Carson Draughn used his long frame to pick the ball out of the air.
East generated more offense as the half progressed, but seemed a bit slow on 50-50 balls. North had numerous hustle plays that kept them a step ahead of the Cardinals, but this occasionally came back to haunt the Hounds. Kevin Hernandez and Luke Holder both earned yellow cards in the first half for the Greyhounds.
East Surry’s team chemistry seemed to increase with the inclusion of more set-pieces in the midfield. Chris Osario and Anderson Alred facilitated ball movement, but when it came to shots, Draughn channelled his inner Dikembe Mutombo and snatched the ball up. The Greyhounds, on the other hand, had success on offense and added to their lead when Vera and Vincent Hernandez plowed through the Cardinal defense to give Joseph Rangel a quality shot on-goal.
Leonardo de la Cruz battled to get the Cards on the board, but just barely missed numerous times. The same went for the Greyhounds, who were able to create one-on-ones with keeper Ethan Casstevens but failed to put the ball on-frame. Allen Perez had a shot in the half’s closing minutes that split the Cards’ uprights.
Grant Whittington of North Surry carried his phenomenal defense into the second half. It was needed, because the Hounds weren’t able to create much offense in the opening minutes. The Cardinal midfield created space for Cruz to take shots, but he wasn’t able to bypass Draughn. Nonetheless, Chavez and the Cards kept the ball in Greyhound territory and more importantly, away from their own goal.
The offense North Surry created was now quick and usually in reaction to a Cardinal attack. Jesus Bautista would take the ball up the right side and cross it, or the Greyhound midfield would send the ball into Cardinal country and Bautista would use his speed to chase it down. Casstevens did well to contain shots made by North Surry and give his team a chance to come back.
Alred fought to advance the ball for East Surry and distribute it to Cruz and Ruiz. Chavez also took the ball down the sidelines and crossed it in to his teammates. Despite out-shooting the Hounds 9-6 in the second half, the Cards’ shots just weren’t finding the back of the net.
North Surry’s defense was outstanding at putting pressure on the East Surry offense and keeping the ball clear of their goal. The Greyhound offense took the load off their defense’s shoulders when they scored a third goal to put the game away. Vincent Hernandez took a corner kick in minute 70 that Adrian Cabrera finished. Cruz fought to close the gap, but time got away from him and the Hounds took the W, 3-0.
Having already played twice this week, East Surry has no time to rest before facing their biggest obstacle of the season in Mount Airy Thursday. A win for the Cardinals would get them back to .500 and give the Granite Bears their first loss of the season. North Surry moves to 5-6 on the season and will have its shot at Mount Airy on October 2.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith