It’s better late than never for North Surry soccer.
With most teams entering week three of fall sports, North Surry (1-0) started the season undefeated with a 5-0 win Monday night against East Wilkes.
“They’ve been chomping at the bit to get out on the field and I feel like that was a good win for us tonight to gauge where we’re at,” said Greyhound coach Eric Jessup. “It’s nice to get the season started and it’s always good to get a win in the first home game.”
The 2017 Hounds boasted one of the more formidable defenses around. Despite finishing 8-12 (4-6 in the Western Piedmont 2A Conference), the Hounds were within one goal of knocking off teams like Mount Airy, Forbush, and Surry Central.
The 2018 team is having to start over with just four returning starters. One key returning player for North is Grant Whittington. The 6-foot-3 centerback earned both WPAC All-Conference honors as well as being just one of five players from Surry County to make the 2A All-Region Team.
Whittington made an immediate impact in the match against East Wilkes (0-5) by spoiling Cardinal attacks. Whittington would clear the ball to open space and let the speedy Isaiah Holcomb chase it down. Holcomb’s runs up the right sideline gave North corner kicks early in the game, but they couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
Joseph Rangel recorded the first Greyhound goal of the 2018 season in minute nine. Rangel took a deflection from Cardinal keeper Blaine Wagoner and hammered it into the goal.
North Surry extended the lead to 2-0 less than a minute later. Holcomb took a shot from the 18-yard line that sped across the grass. A miscommunication between Wagoner and defender Abram Sparks resulted in the ball sliding past both and into the back of the net.
Jesus Juarez of East Wilkes made the first threatening run of the night for the Cardinals following the Hounds’ second goal. Juarez managed to take the ball deep into North territory, but was stopped when he reached the corner near the right sideline. Whittington, along with his fellow backs Scott Shore and Cole Richardson, didn’t allow keeper Carson Draughn many opportunities to touch the ball.
Kevin and Vincent Hernandez patrolled the midfield for the Greyhounds. When much of the first half took place in the middle third, the duo kept possession with pinpoint passing.
“We passed really well tonight, and that was the big thing,” Jessup said. “We were moving without the ball to open spaces and that was one thing that was nice to see.”
North forced a number of first-half corner kicks with its constant offensive presence. Rangel took a corner with just 10 minutes remaining in the half to try to extend the lead. The ball was tipped by the keeper toward the head of Whittington, who then scored. The Hounds led 3-0 at halftime.
Whittington nearly scored his second goal of the match off a free kick from Kevin Hernandez in minute 44. Whittington’s shot soared just wide of the goal post.
Vincent Hernandez had no problem with showing his fancy footwork in Monday’s match. Hernandez also exhibited his passing with a through ball to Jair Gonzalez that caught the Cardinal defense off-guard. When Gonzalez was pushed off the ball, Rangel swooped in without breaking stride to finish Hernandez’s pass for his second goal of the night.
Cardinals Logan Lytton and Dylan Ward worked the ball up the field with triangle passing following North’s fourth goal. Lytton created enough space for shot and went mere feet off target.
The final North Surry goal came in the 56th minute. Adrian Cabrera scored the goal of the night, according to Jessup, when he found the upper-90 from outside the 18, making it a 5-0 game. Javier Galeana managed to put the ball past the keeper minutes later, but the goal was called back due to an offside call.
With the exception of a yellow card for Rangel, the remainder of the match went uninterrupted. Jessup cleared his bench with JV players to gain experience at the varsity level early in the season. Despite having a young team, Jessup said he enjoys this group and looks forward to seeing them mesh as a team.
“The guys are really coachable and are working really hard. It’s a really fun group of kids and they’ve been great to work with,” Jessup said.
North Surry looks to improve to 2-0 when they travel to South Stokes (1-3) tonight. East Wilkes is still looking for its first win of the season and hopes to do so against Bunker Hill (1-2) on Wednesday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith