The fact that Hurricane Florence didn’t ravage the landscape of Surry Country doesn’t mean people went unaffected. For Mount Airy’s soccer team, it wasn’t what the storm did to them, but rather what it prohibited them from doing.
Rain and rescheduling meant the Granite Bears had to wait and wait for their next contest. When they finally got back on the field, coach Will Hurley realized the impact the hiatus had on the team.
“I’d rather play three games back-to-back-to-back than to have a 10-day layoff. It’s horrible,” Hurley said. “You can’t get them back up to speed and the cramps start again. It becomes a mental thing.”
The Bears’ last match took place on September 10 in a 3-2 loss to Glenn. The loss lingered for 10 days as the Bears (9-1) awaited what was poised to be another blowout victory over Davie County. A new attitude from the War Eagles, combined with rust, nearly resulted in another loss for the Granite Bears. Mount Airy pulled out a 2-1 victory, but the team didn’t walk away with a sense of victory.
“It’s hard to believe a win could make you feel so miserable, but hey, it’s a win so we’ll take it,” Hurley said. “We just decided to play what I call ‘inside the football numbers’ and didn’t stretch it wide, and that’s our game. It’s just one of those games that you’re lucky to even win.”
Davie (1-10) suffered its worst loss of the season in a 9-0 mercy-rule game against the Bears in early September. The War Eagles had a score to settle in Granite City, and did so by striking first just six minutes into the match.
Davie’s Coby Roberts won a 50-50 ball in Bear territory and made a beeline for the Mount Airy goal. Granite Bear keeper Jesus Valadez managed to get a hand on the ball, but it wasn’t enough as it sailed into the back of the net.
Mount Airy managed to get its first shot on goal soon after in the form of a free kick. Jackson Tumbarello sent a screamer from 45-yards that was caught by War Eagle Joey Boyle.
Kaleb Morrison was the distributor for the Bears and kickstarted their offense. Morrison connected with Drew Tilley downfield, allowing Tilley to take the ball to the corner. Tilley’s cross connected with Austin Tumbarello for a header that soared wide.
The Bears weren’t able to find their scoring touch until the 21-minute mark. Bryan Valadez sent a through ball up the right side to Austin Tumbarello. Austin dribbled toward the sideline before crossing to Baelin Watson. Watson put it past Boyle to tie the game 1-1.
Before Mount Airy scored, Davie didn’t allow the Bears to press up on defense. This changed when the entire roster shifted up and kept play on Davie’s half.
Morrison, William Luna, both Tumbarello’s, and Liam Overby all had quality looks at the goal in the first half, but couldn’t finish. The War Eagles’ defense never folded and carried the tie into halftime.
It was Mount Airy’s turn to score early when the second half whistle blew. Jackson Tumbarello had a free kick placed 10 yards into Mount Airy’s half in minute 43. Jackson shocked both teams when his clearance transformed into a shot on goal.
Boyle made a play on the shot, but wasn’t able to catch it. Austin Tumbarello was in the area and tried to get a shot off, but it was deflected by War Eagle defenders. Brandon Osorno chased down the deflection and put it on frame before the keeper could retreat. Osorno’s goal would be the difference in the match.
It was the battle of midfielders as the ball stayed in the middle third for nearly 20 minutes. Occasional shots would head the way of the Davie goal, but nothing to make Boyle sweat.
Austin Tumbarello used his speed to chase down through balls for open shots. At the 61-minute mark, Austin was one-on-one with the keeper but offset to the left of the goal. Austin ran around the ball to use his right foot for a shot that went into the outside netting.
Two minutes later, Bryan Valadez had a big clear to give Austin an open look. After beating the sole defender fast enough to keep up, Austin stopped the ball inside the 18. With just the keeper to beat, Austin’s shot sailed wide of the goal post to keep the War Eagles’ hopes alive.
Davie managed to keep Mount Airy from extending its lead any more, but struggled to tie the game. Jesus Valadez only had to make two saves in the second half. Both were on shots from well outside the 18.
It may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and Mount Airy improved to 9-1. With conference play approaching, Hurley said it’s time to buckle down and get serious if the Bears want to contend for a conference championship.
“We’ve got to get back to the basics,” Hurley said. “We’ve got to get back to square one and we’re starting tomorrow.”
Mount Airy begins conference play on September 25 by traveling to South Stokes, and then will host East Surry on the 28th.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith