PILOT MOUNTAIN — The East Surry soccer team is in the midst of an inconsistent season, and this Jekyll and Hyde play once again plagued the Cardinals on Wednesday.
East Surry got off to a hot start and took a 2-0 lead over Atkins in the first half, but it couldn’t hold on. The Cardinals gave up the game’s next three goals and fell to the Camels 3-2.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on one thing that changed,” Cardinal coach Mike Lowery said. “I can’t say we made a position switch, we didn’t know what was changing on the sideline.”
Seniors Storm Livingston and Dylan Wagoner believe their team lost focus once they got ahead of their Northwest Conference rivals. Livingston and Wagoner also noted that this year’s version of the Cardinals are unfamiliar with the feeling of a two-goal lead, and they didn’t know how to react as the game wore on.
Atkins (4-9, 1-2) actually came out of the gate aggressively, and posted five shots in the first seven minutes, but it was East Surry who registered the opening goal.
Against the run of play, the Cardinals received a corner kick in the 12th minute and capitalized. Javier Ruiz sent in a swerving cross that found the head of defender Storm Livingston, who guided his shot past the Atkins keeper and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
This goal provided East Surry (4-9, 1-3) with some confidence and a nice spell of possession in the middle of the first half.
The Cardinals doubled their lead during this stretch on a goal from Diego Rebollar in the 23rd minute. Gonzalo Chaves notched the assist on a lofted cross into the box that Rebollar was able to chest down before using his foot for the second goal.
It looked like East Surry would hold this lead until halftime, but the Camels made a late push to tie the match.
Atkins scored two goals in the final 3:32 to seize momentum heading into the second half. Sam Hiatt and Boston Frazier were the first two goal scorers for the Camels.
Both scores in the first half for Atkins came off long clearances from the back. The Camels were able to use their speed effectively on the counter-attack.
“When we’re losing the ball in the midfield, we aren’t challenging the opposing team,” Lowery said. “We need to do a better job pressuring the middle of the field, but maybe it is a focus issue.”
This flurry of goals continued in the second half. Atkins took the lead in the first 20 seconds of the second period, before the Cardinals could even get a touch on the ball.
Daniel Ogden drew the defense toward him and played a nice through ball down the middle of the field to Vinish Kumar. Kumar was one-on-one with East Surry goalie Kendall Williams, and slotted his shot past the Cardinal keeper for a 3-2 lead.
The Cardinals played on their heels throughout much of the second half, but Atkins elected to play it safe in the final 10 minutes and put all but one player behind the ball.
This allowed East Surry to launch crosses into the box and create opportunities, and the Cardinals almost scored with eight minutes remaining, when Livingston got on the end of a corner kick with an outstretched foot, but he couldn’t get enough power behind his shot and the Atkins goalie gathered it safely.
It was the final match of Trace Simmons’ state-mandated two-game suspension for receiving a red card. Simmons will be back on Tuesday for East Surry’s home match against Walkertown, but Lowery admitted his presence could have changed things against Atkins.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16