DOBSON — With 12 seconds left to play in Surry Central’s key Western Piedmont 2-A Conference soccer match with Forbush, the Falcons’ Ryan Miller got his head on the ball about 15 yards from the Golden Eagles’ goal and sent it flying toward the net.
“They are trying to kill me early,” said Surry Central head coach Blake Roth. “I about had a heart attack.”
Assistant coach Matt Richardson’s comment to the team was “That took a couple of minutes off my life.”
The partisan crowd on the home side of the stadium held their collective breath for a couple of seconds as the shot sailed just above the left corner of the net. Moments later, time expired and the home team could finally celebrate a 1-0 victory on Senior Night for six Golden Eagle players.
More importantly, it enabled Surry Central to tie Forbush for first place in the conference. If the Golden Eagles can win at West Stokes on Wednesday night, the worst they can do is finish as conference co-champions with the Falcons.
Central dominated the action for most of the match, especially in the second half, where they won about three-quarters of the loose balls and kept the Falcons (18-2-2, 5-1 WP2A) from mounting any serious scoring threat for about 35 minutes before the heart-stopping finish.
The score could have, and probably should have, been more favorable to the Eagles. Surry Central just missed the net on several shots, and had a penalty-kick goal nullified early in the match because a player not involved in the PK entered the goal box too early.
The winning goal came in the 30th minute of the match. The Eagles were awarded a free kick thanks to a Falcon foul about 25 yards from the net. Adrian Gonzalez took the kick, and Fernando Talavera knocked the ball into the net for the first and only goal of the evening. Surry Central carried its 1-0 lead into intermission and then played keep-away throughout the second half.
“We gave them very few shots on goal tonight,” said Roth. “We controlled the game and controlled possession. We didn’t do ourselves any favors on offense, but anytime you beat Forbush, it’s a good day.”
The Eagles’ inability to get another shot into the next had their supporters on edge throughout the match. But they came close several times. With 14:02 left, Arturo Lopez sent a hard shot just inches wide of the left goalpost. About five minutes later, Brayan Gomez sliced and diced his way through the Falcons’ defense and the Forbush goalkeeper barely made the save. About 40 seconds later, he was jumping to save another shot, and this time it got out of his hands and rolled to a stop a foot from the entrance to the goal.
The Golden Eagles kept pressing, and it wasn’t until the final two minutes of the match that the desperate Forbush side managed to get the ball into the other end of the field and keep it there for any length of time. Still, the Surry Central defenders did their jobs until a ball was knocked out near the visitors’ side corner with about 20 seconds remaining.
“When they got that throw-in from the corner, I was thinking ‘just my luck…,’” said Roth.
The ball came flying in toward the goal as if it were a corner kick, and Miller beat four Golden Eagles to the ball, getting his head on it. Perhaps Central goalkeeper Ryan Gordon would have saved it, but no one will ever know, because it sailed just beyond the crossbar.
As time expired, the Golden Eagles rushed the field. Central athletics director Myles Wilmoth greeted the team on the field with fresh pizza.
Surry Central nearly took the lead in the 10th minute, when Gonzalez was fouled in the box by a Falcon defender and received a penalty kick. He made the shot, but the referee waved it off when a teammate entered the box too soon.
To claim a share of the conference title, however, the team must still beat West Stokes (10-6-3, 3-3-2) on Wednesday night. Roth reminded them of that during the postgame celebration.
“If you lose to West Stokes, winning this game doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.