For nearly 30 minutes, a spirited effort by the Mount Airy soccer team and its supporters in the student section had the Granite Bears battling visiting Bishop McGuinness to a draw and sometimes even outplaying the Villains.
However, the Granite Bears couldn’t maintain the high level of play and eventually wore down in a 5-0 defeat that clinched the Northwest 1A title for Bishop.
The Villains (12-6-1, 7-1 NW1A) could have locked up the league title in their last match, but were upset by Walkertown in their most recent outing and had to have the victory over Mount Airy in order to secure the crown. In fact, the Bears would have forged a three-way tie with Bishop and the Wolfpack if it could have won on Tuesday night.
Mount Airy (15-6-1, 5-3) gave its best shot, but was ultimately outmanned.
Twice in the opening 14 minutes of the match, the Bears had golden opportunities to take the early lead, the first coming five minutes in when Robert Brown put a corner kick right in front of the net and in the vicinity of strikers Matther Dodd and Austin Tumbarello, but neither could finish. The second came in the 14th minute, when a Bishop defender just got a piece of a Tumbarello shot and forced it wide right of the net. Mount Airy then got a corner kick but couldn’t convert it.
Bishop, which had a number of shots on goal early the match, finally got on the board with 11:31 left in the first half on a goal by Andrew Kabealo.
The Bears nearly responded two minutes later, but again were unable to finish in front of the Villains’ net after another excellent corner kick by Brown. Less than a minute later, Bishop had flipped the field and scored to take a 2-0 lead.
Mount Airy continued to have opportunities in the second half, but the Bears surrendered goals in the 44th, 54th and 76th minutes to enable the Villains to successfully defend the conference title that they shared with Mount Airy a year ago.
In the final minutes of the match, a highly physical game turned a little chippy when a player each side drew a yellow card in separate incidents.
The Bears nearly scored in the 67th minute, when Bishop keeper Nathan Strasser made a diving save to his left in order to stop what looked like a sure goal.
The match was Senior Night for Mount Airy seniors Daniel Garcia, Jesus Orozco, Dodd, Jesus Martinez, Malcolm Malone, Wesley Frye and Bryan Hernandez.The Bears have earned a spot in the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs and will find out who their first-round opponent will be on Nov. 3. First-round matches will be played two days later.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.