DOBSON — It was the day after Halloween, but the Surry Central soccer team got two treats on Wednesday night.
The first was one they earned, as the Golden Eagles notched their fourth consecutive shutout and advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs with a 4-0 win over Fred T. Foard.
The second treat was one they learned about shortly after wrapping up the victory. Central had expected to be on the road if it defeated Foard, since it was only the 14th seed in the West Regional as Western Piedmont Athletic Conference runner-up. However, round two will be in Dobson, after all. In another match being contested down the road at the same time as Central’s, 30th seed Thomasville stunned WPAC champion and third seed Forbush 1-0. It was only the second loss of the season for the Falcons, the state’s eighth-ranked 2A team.
“It’s kind of bittersweet for us, because we wanted a third shot at them,” said Eagles head coach Blake Roth. “But anytime you hear that Forbush got beat, you know you’re in for a battle, because they’re like the top of the food chain.
“We do like playing at home, though. No matter who we’re playing, I think we’re peaking a little bit, and that is a good thing.”
The Eagles know their opponent but did not know when the match would be played as of press time. Thomasville (13-10-1), representing the Central Carolina 2A Conference, will play at Central on either Friday, Saturday or Monday, depending on what the weather reports call for. At press time, rain was expected on both weekend dates. A possible third-round match would not take place until Wednesday.
However, Surry Central (15-5) wasn’t worried about Thomasville, Forbush or anyone else when it stepped onto the field to play the Tigers. Foard had finished third in the Northwestern Foothills Conference, a league that features Patton, the state’s seventh-ranked 2A team; and a Hibriten team that Central barely beat 2-1 back in August. While the Eagles were looking forward to a possible third crack at arch-rival Forbush, they knew beating Foard had to come first.
They went out and took care of business.
Central took control in the midfield early in the match, and before long was successful in getting the ball into the Tigers’ end and keeping it there. In the fifth minute, the Eagles had a cross in front of the Foard goal, but were unable to get anyone on the left side to finish the play. Foard’s keeper cleared it, but Central won another battle in the midfield and went back on the attack.
After exactly six and a half minutes, Nolan McMillen worked his way past a Tiger defender and had an open shot from about 15 yards outside the right post. He quickly took the shot and blasted it past the keeper to put the Golden Eagles on top.
Surry Central didn’t let up after getting on the board, and in the ninth minute of play, Axel Rangel found himself some space in a melee in front of the Tigers’ goal, putting one into the back of the net to increase the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.
The remainder of the first half was a battle of the midfielders, with the defenders occasionally getting involved on both sides. Foard managed to keep possession in the Central end of the field for a few minutes at about the 15-minute mark, but strong defense by the Eagles meant that at no time did the Tigers ever mount a serious threat against the goal.
For the home team, Rodrigo Landaverde got a shot on goal in the 20th minute, but the keeper made the play to keep the Tigers in the match. The Eagles’ Hernan Garcia was shaken up in a collision with the Foard keeper in the 34th minute, but eventually went off under his own power, and Central took its 2-0 lead into the break.
“Defensively, we shut them down and were able to get some good looks early,” Roth said. “I think getting two into the back of the net in the first 10 minutes helped us a lot. (Foard) knew they were behind the eight-ball after that.
“They’re a young team, and they played us hard, but I can’t find much fault with anything we did tonight.”
The Eagles turned up the heat in the second half and tried to put the Tigers away, but Foard (12-8-1) parried the first few attacks, including an apparent breakaway that Andrei Tamas got back and broke up, and then a corner kick. But in the 49th minute, Central was back in the Foard end, and the Tigers were whistled for a foul about 30 yards from the goal. Ernesto Caro took the free kick for the Eagles from that distance, and his perfectly-placed shot beat the keeper for a 3-0 lead.
The last goal came in the 57th minute, when Landaverde got another chance thanks to a rebound shot from no more than six yards out. He put it away, and Roth felt comfortable enough to get several of his starters out of the match. Caro had another chance to score five minutes later, but the keeper made the save. After that, Central was content to focus on defense and possession until time expired.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.