PILOT MOUNTAIN — The East Surry Cardinals had extra motivation to defeat Mount Airy Thursday, hoping to become the 1 in 12-1. The Cards came out strong in hopes of handing the Granite Bears their first loss of the season and had the boys in blue reeling for a while. Ultimately, the Bears overcame their rival 4-0 to advance to 13-0.
East Surry took a move out of their opponents playbook by turning the Bears’ opening kickoff into an offensive strike. Unfortunately for the Cards, Mount Airy halted the run to take control of the game. Julio Contreras was the distributor for the visiting team and moved the ball freely around the field. Contreras also took the first shot for the Bears in the opening minutes, but was unable to score.
The Cardinals were able to disrupt the Bears’ possession dominance and make runs of their own. Diego Rebollar sent the ball ahead to Chris Osario before the ball was snatched up by Jesus Valadez of Mount Airy. East Surry kept pressure on the Bears and didn’t give up any space to their opponents.
Mount Airy struggled to execute its offense in full effect due to the man-marking by East Surry on Austin Tumbarello. Despite the Cards’ containment strategy, the Bears made Cardinal keeper Ethan Casstevens work to keep a clean slate. On a foul that gave East’s Seth Lowe a yellow card, Robert Brown nearly scored for Mount Airy on a free kick from 30 yards out. Casstevens’ outstretched hand kept the game tied at 0-0.
The Bears took three corner kicks in the first half and couldn’t put the ball away. East Surry’s Anderson Alred didn’t give Tumbarello any room to breathe. Many of the Bears’ shots came from outside the 18-yard box because of the defensive strength of East in the first half. Lowe made sure his team played with a defense-first attitude and it worked for much of the half. By containing Mount Airy’s offensive weapons and taking advantage of the occasional run, East Surry stayed competitive for much of the first half.
Contreras finally put the Bears on the scoreboard in minute 35. Tumbarello escaped Alred’s pressure and used his incredible speed to break the rest of the defense. Tumbarello’s initial shot was tipped by Casstevens, but Contreras was there to finish the job. This gave the Bears a 1-0 lead coming into halftime.
The second half was back-and-forth until the sixth minute when something very strange occurred. A Gonzalo Chavez throw-in put the ball in the six-yard box amid a sea of blue and white. East Surry began celebrating and it appeared the ball was in the back of the net. Following a discussion between officials, it was determined that no player touched the ball before it went into the goal. This meant the goal did not count, as a player cannot score directly from a throw-in. The Mount Airy lead stood.
While East Surry seemed to be a step-behind on 50-50 balls, Mount Airy was still in full force. Casstevens had some impressive saves in the first few minutes, but couldn’t stop a shot from Tumbarello, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead. Having smelled blood in the water, the Bears continued their offensive flurry. This flurry turned into an all-out snowstorm, however, as East Surry didn’t record a shot in the final 30 minutes of the match.
The back line of Mount Airy stepped up in the second half and didn’t give the Cards any chance to come back. East Surry often tried to make runs up the left side of the field, but the combination of Jesus Luna and Jackson Tumbarello immediately shut it down.
The Cardinals tried to contain the Bears’ offense by playing physical defense, but it only resulted in two more yellow cards, one to Chavez and the other to Adrian Caro. The Bears also earned two more goals to put the cherry on top of their victory. Both goals saw Mount Airy attack in numbers and overwhelm their opponents. Contreras scored his second goal of the match off a rebound from Jesus Lachino. Tumbarello scored the fourth and final goal in the same fashion, this time off a Luis Osorno shot.
It was a tale of two halves that Mount Airy proved too much for East Surry. Despite key absences on offense, the Cardinals showed glimpses of promise as they fall to 4-6. East Surry will host Bishop McGuinness on October 3. Mount Airy aims for win number 14 against Oak Hill Academy Friday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith