DOBSON — The name Tumbarello has resonated with the Mount Airy Granite Bears’ soccer program for the better part of four years. With nights like Tuesday’s win against Surry Central, it’s not hard to see why.
Austin Tumbarello notched his 100th career goal in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Eagles. Austin, who had 42 goals just last season, is playing some of the best soccer of his life right now, according to coach Will Hurley.
“[Austin] is really big for us,” Hurley said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen somebody control the ball and go that fast. He’s phenomenal and just playing really good soccer right now.”
The Granite Bears and Golden Eagles were stalemated for more than 50 minutes in the match. It wasn’t until minute 53 that Austin took the ball up the right sideline and tried to cross into the Eagles’ box. A deflection by Central keeper Johnny Garcia put the ball in front of Mount Airy’s Kaleb Morrison. Morrison headed the ball toward the goal for Tumbarello to finish on what would be the only score of the night.
Central and Mount Airy are rivals for 160 minutes a season. Other than that, Central coach Blake Roth said the teams root for one another. Roth went on to say how great Austin and the Bears as a whole have become in the past few years.
“In tough battles like that, great players like Austin Tumbarello find a way to score,” Roth said. “They’ve got speed, depth, scoring, and defense. Barring injuries, that team should make a run for the state championship, that’s how good they are.”
On the other side of the field was another Tumbarello. Jackson Tumbarello was the Bears’ defensive anchor and spoiled a number of Eagle attacks. Jackson commanded the defense and led the charge to keep Central scoreless in the remaining 27 minutes.
The Mount Airy offense controlled the pace of the game early on fired shot after shot at Garcia. Jesus Lachino, along with Brandon Osorno, regulated the Bears’ midfield and distributed to Drew Tilley and Austin Tumbarello up front for shots on goal.
The Golden Eagles made sparse runs in the opening minutes, but managed to take over around the 15th minute. Edgar Vega crossed the ball to Chaco Sanchez at the top of the 18-yard box. Sanchez found a wide-open Erik Cruz, who put the ball into the side-netting. Junior Lopez took a chance soon after, but couldn’t put the ball on target.
Jackson Tumbarello and the Mount Airy back line seemed one step ahead of the Eagles’ offense in the first half. Andres Flores kept trying to feed the ball to Sanchez and Axel Rangel up top, but struggled against the Bears’ defense and had to take slower approaches through the midfield and to the corners.
Roth had high praise for Nolan McMillen and his impact on the Eagles’ midfield in the loss.
“When you have Nolan out there, you’re going to get 195 percent,” Roth said. “He played about 78 minutes, and was only off two when he was forced to come off with an injury.”
Central spent the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half threatening to score. A number of free kicks from Flores put the ball into Bear territory, and the Eagles had quality looks. Central’s pressure and ability to catch the Bears’ defense off-guard led to a yellow card for Christian Vernon. Flores connected with Andres Jaimes on the free kick, but Jaimes’ shot soared wide.
After Tumbarello scored his goal, the tide of the game shifted. Central played with a greater sense of urgency, while Mount Airy shifted to a more defensive-minded strategy. The Bears had nine players in the box on numerous Eagle corners, leaving just Austin Tumbarello and Liam Overby to attack.
Frustration built for the home team as they struggled to find the back of the net. Jaimes earned a yellow card after committing back-to-back fouls, and it was evident time was running out to tie the game.
The last-ditch effort came when Flores took a free kick from midfield with just 20 seconds on the clock. The kick flew into the Bears’ box before being headed in the air by Jackson Tumbarello. Players frantically kicked the ball around until the final buzzer sounded.
“Both teams got better because of that game,” Roth said. “My hat’s off to them, but we’re coming for them next time.”
Central falls to 1-1-2 after dropping its first game of the season. The Golden Eagles will host West Iredell on Thursday. Mount Airy improves to 5-0 on the season and will have its home opener on Thursday against Ashe County.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith