STATESVILLE — Every local sports team hopes they begin their 2017 season as well as Mount Airy’s soccer team did on Saturday.
The Granite Bears became the first team to play against someone other than themselves, as one of more than a dozen teams to take part in the 24th annual Warrior Jamboree at West Iredell High School. Mount Airy was one of the first teams to play, at 8 a.m., and scrimmaged three opponents in game conditions before finishing up early in the afternoon.
Their opponents discovered why the appellation “Granite” applies to the Bears. In 240 minutes of soccer, Mount Airy allowed just a single goal, which came after head coach Will Hurley had gone deep into his bench.
“We’ve been working on improving defensively,” said Hurley, whose team went 17-7-1 and reached the third round of the 1A state soccer playoffs last fall. “I thought that is what we needed to do to improve as a team.”
The Bears had some defensive issues a year ago, but none were in evidence on Saturday. Mount Airy blanked Bandys 2-0, then edged North Lincoln 1-0, and finally downed Carson, a 3A school, 2-1 in their finale early in the afternoon.
“Every time a team came at us, we shut them down,” said Hurley. “Jesus Valadez and Caden Hill did a great job in goal, and Jackson Tumbarello and Robert Brown were strong on the back line.”
Brown, who plays both football and soccer in the fall, actually missed the Bears’ first match against Bandys because Saturday was picture day for the football team. The All-Conference placekicker made his way to Statesville after getting his picture taken, and assumed one of the fullback positions in the final two matches. Hurley said that Brown’s presence on the back line seems to have improved the defense.
The Mount Airy offense was just as solid, Hurley said.
“We possessed the ball really well. We had a lot more chances to score, but it was the first time we’d played,” he said. “Sometimes the kids got excited and rushed to take a shot.”
With three matches being played over the course of the day, both varsity and JV players were on hand and part of the same rotation. The coach said that several underclassmen bound for the JV team performed well against more experienced players on the three teams that the Bears were facing.
“This is the first time I’ve come to one of these and really been pleased with how we played,” he said. “It wasn’t because we were playing bad teams; there was a lot of speed and skill on all three of those teams.
“I’m excited that we were able to play at this level so early in the season.”
Mount Airy is expected to once again battle perennial powerhouse Bishop McGuinness for supremacy in the Northwest 1A Conference. The Bears have one more scrimmage event, this coming Saturday at Hickory High School, before their first official match on Aug. 14 at North Wilkes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.