DOBSON — For most of the night, it was a matter of who could do a better job of stretching the rules and get away with it. But it was decided by a pure soccer play.
In a soccer match that featured more infraction cards (six) than goals (five), North Forsyth’s Mike Vega settled a crossing pass in front of the goal from near-point-blank range and put it past Surry Central keeper Jonathan DeSantiago for a 3-2 victory in the only local sports event contested on Labor Day.
The Golden Eagles (5-2), who entered the match as the state’s fifth-ranked 2A team according to MaxPreps.com, rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second half and had multiple chances to take the lead against their visitors, who avenged a 2-1 defeat at Central’s hands back on Aug. 23 in Winston-Salem.
“We didn’t execute like we should have in this game,” said Surry Central coach Blake Roth. “They were collapsing on us two at a time whenever we got the ball, and we were not making smart decisions on our passes. We have to move the ball around and get a cohesion around us, and we just didn’t do that.”
The match could best be described as ‘chippy,’ as the Vikings received three yellow cards and one red card for rough play, and played roughly the last 60 minutes at a one-man disadvantage. There was frequent trash-talking throughout the match and a near-altercation after it was over, with the game officials seemingly unable to establish control of the proceedings, or often, even to notice most of what was actually going on.
No one from Central was using North Forsyth’s physical play as an excuse for the loss. Roth felt like he had the better team and told his charges after the match was over that the Vikings had simply wanted it more than they had.
“We knew it was going to be rough coming in, and that’s OK. You’re going to find teams like this, and we’re not the biggest team in stature. We have to make up for that with our talent, and we didn’t do that,” said Roth. “We didn’t do that tonight. We held on to the ball too long and let them dispossess us too many times.”
The visitors came out and took it right to the Eagles in the first part of the match. North Forsyth (5-1) had a shot on goal before less than 90 seconds had passed, and they were able to keep the ball in the Central end of the field almost continuously early on. Eight and a half minutes in, the Vikings’ Kevin Alvarenga settled under a crossing pass into the middle of the field and put one past DeSantiago from about 20 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles had three good chances to equalize in the last 16 minutes of the first half, but couldn’t convert on any of them. In the 35th minute, Hernan Garcia got a long pass and worked his way past two Forsyth defenders, but then pushed his shot wide right. Two and a half minutes later, Central actually scored when a player put one in off a free kick, but the official waved it off, saying that the Eagles had come offside.
Finally, with a little under three minutes left in the first half, Axel Rangel had an open shot from about 30 yards, but he also pushed it to the right of the net.
The Vikings went right to the attack to start the second half, and it paid dividends. Javier Villacana blocked one open shot late in the 41st minute, only for Forsyth’s Enry Robles to get the ball straight-on the center of the goal and put one in from about five yards out.
That seemed to wake the Eagles up, and they began putting the visitors on their heels, using their superior skills to offset Forsyth’s physicality. With 31:45 left in the match, Fernando Talavera headed a ball inside the right post after a long free kick, and the Vikings’ lead was chopped in half. Central kept pressing the attack, and in the 62nd minute, a corner kick by Julio Sanchez led to the tying goal. It was again Talavera with a header, but this time, the ball was too strong and it went off the crossbar and settled in front of the net. Miguel Tello got to it before anyone, and blasted it past the keeper to tie the match.
Each team had opportunities to take the lead in the ensuing minutes, but as time wound down under five to play, it appeared as if the match would end in a contentious draw. However, with time at about three and half minutes left, Forsyth again got the ball deep into the Central end of the field, and after moving along the end line to the right of the net, a crossing pass went to Vega, and he put it through with just 2:56 remaining.
The Eagles had one final chance in the last minute, when it appeared that a Central attacker was taken down in the goal box area, but they were only awarded a free kick. Sanchez went for the goal, but his shot was too low and deflected away by a Forsyth defender. Time ran out before Central could move close to the goal again.
Surry Central returns to action on Wednesday night at North Iredell.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.