PILOT MOUNTAIN — Six Cardinal seniors laced up their cleats and took to their home field for the final time in their high school careers Thursday. If Senior Night wasn’t enough motivation for East Surry, the Cards looked to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Wildcats in August.
Despite playing an additional 10-minute overtime, a winner could not be decided in a closely contested contest. Each team recorded 15 shots and 11 saves. East Surry committed 11 fouls to the Wildcats’ nine. The only category that one team held a distinct advantage was with corner kicks, in which the Cats led seven to two.
The teams began the back-and-forth action from the opening whistle. Javier Ruiz took the first shot for the Cards in the fourth minute. The Wildcats fought back with a run of their own to keep the ball in Cardinal territory, testing keeper Ryan Sigmon and eventually earning a corner.
West Stokes, despite keeping the ball on the East Surry side of the pitch, weren’t able to take many shots on goal early. Ryan Wagoner and Adrian Caro took care of Wildcat runs up the sides while Gonzalo Caro handled plays up the middle.
Leonardo de la Cruz caught the Cats’ defense off guard and managed to bypass the opposing keeper. A West Stokes defender kept the scoreboard clean by clearing the ball out of danger before Cruz could put it away. Ruiz continued feeding the ball to Cruz and Diego Rebollar to create shots. Another close call came in minute 16 on a cross from Eduardo Medina that was nabbed by the keeper.
West Stokes was the first team on the board with a goal in minute 19. A Wildcat striker connected with the ball whilst falling down and put his shot perfectly over Sigmon’s outstretched hand for a goal.
The Cats wouldn’t hold the lead for very long, however. Excellent passing by the home team gave Cruz a clear lane up the right sideline. Cruz crossed the ball into Ruiz who hammered it home for the Cards’ first goal. The game was tied only one minute after the West Stokes goal.
The remainder of the first half saw both teams playing quality defense. The West Stokes back line protected their keeper from close shots and allowed him to easily intercept shots outside the 18-yard box. Sending the ball over the back line seemed to be the best strategy for either team. West Stokes nearly scored this way on a free kick that had to be punched away by Sigmon. In the closing minutes of the half, Caro was able to deflect two open shots by Wildcat strikers to keep the game tied going into the halftime festivities.
The six seniors honored by the Cardinals Tuesday evening were as follows: Adrian Caro, Diego Rebollar, Javier Ruiz, Brandon Kenney, Ryan Sigmon, and Eduardo Medina.
Ruiz nearly made his senior night even sweeter with a free kick in the 43rd minute that the Wildcat keeper barely got in front of. Cruz and Chris Osario added to the Cardinals’ shot count, putting the ball on-frame but failing to bypass the keeper.
Momentum shifted around the 48-minute mark as the Wildcats produced a flurry of offense. The Cardinal keeper, switched to Ethan Casstevens during halftime, had his hands full right away. Long throw-ins proved as threatening as corner kicks for the Cats. The ball floated into the six-yard box midway through the half and was dangerously close to going in before being sent flying by the Cards’ back line.
The game turned chippy with a string of fouls, but neither team could take advantage on free kicks. The ball bounced from 18 to 18, but both defenses did well to keep the ball out of their respective box. Gonzalo Chavez’s high-arching free kicks certainly made the West Stokes keeper sweat, but not enough to let the ball slip past into the goal. Oscar Duran had a header in the closing minutes off a cross from Anderson Alred as a last-ditch effort from East Surry, but it wasn’t to be.
As non-conference opponents, the teams would face off in a single 10-minute overtime. Chavez had another opportunity to score on a deep free kick that nearly gave the Cards the lead, but it was stopped by the Cats’ keeper.
West Stokes controlled the pace for much of overtime and earned two corner kicks back-to-back, but couldn’t get past the Cardinal defense. The final two minutes of play saw the Cards firing shot after shot. Nothing would work, however, and the game ended in the Cardinals’ first tie of the season.
East Surry will play four road games to end the season, the next taking place at South Stokes on October 10. West Stokes also plays their next match on October 10 at Alamance Christian.
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