Both North Surry and East Surry came into Tuesday’s soccer match needing a win to keep their seasons on track.
The Greyhounds (6-3-1, 1-3) had dropped three of their four conference matches after starting the season 4-0-1. In a similar situation were the East Surry Cardinals (5-3-2, 0-1) who had won just one of their previous four matches, losing two and tying one.
A scoreless first half and rollercoaster second half gave North the victory 2-1. According to North coach Eric Jessup, the win came at just the right time.
“That was a good win for us,” Jessup said. “East Surry is a good club and they’re playing well this season so it felt good to win, especially after a tough game against Surry Central last night.”
North’s contest against Central was the first of three matches in three days for the Greyhounds. Looking at the bigger picture, Jessup said his team played strategically throughout the game. Jessup not only had to account for Wednesday’s match at Carver, but how his team felt after playing a physical Eagles squad just 24 hours prior.
“We played last night and had a war against Surry Central and came up short, 2-0,” Jessup said. “Our goal [tonight] was to come out and play them scoreless until halftime and try to turn it up a little bit in the second half. We realized if we came out and spent ourselves the first 40 minutes, we wouldn’t have anything left in the tank.”
That’s exactly what the Hounds did, and it paid dividends. North relied on a strong midfield and defensive game plan in a bend-don’t-break style of play. The trio of Grant Whittington, Scott Shore, and Cole Richardson allowed East Surry to take longer shots while the Hounds waited to strike on counterattacks. Vincent and Kevin Hernandez patrolled the midfield and sent through balls to Isaiah Holcomb and Dalessandro Raya up the right side when available.
East Surry likely had possession for 70 percent of the first half. Leo De la Cruz and Anderson Allred pressed the Cardinal midfield up to keep the ball on North Surry’s half. Despite the high volume of shots and free kicks, Greyhound keeper Carson Draughn kept a clean slate through the first 40 minutes of play.
Entering the second half, North Surry flipped the switch from defense to offense. Aside from an Allred shot in the opening minutes, the Hounds kept the ball on East Surry’s half. Both Vincent and Kevin Hernandez had shots in the first 10 minutes that tested Cardinal keeper Ethan Casstevens. Had a number of Cards not swarmed to the ball inside the box, North may have gotten on the scoreboard even sooner.
The Hounds possessed the ball around midfield at 55’ before sending a through-ball past the pressing Cardinal defenders. Holcomb flashed across the field to one-touch the ball past Casstevens to take a 1-0 lead.
“Isaiah Holcomb hit a beautiful one-touch shot for that first goal, and that’s what we want to do more of, Jessup said. “Those one-touch shots catch the keeper off-guard a little bit and that’s exactly what he did.”
The Hounds sent another through-ball to Holcomb not 60 seconds later. Holcomb was fouled inside the box before he could shoot, setting up North for a penalty kick. Kevin Hernandez took aim and fired the shot into the back of the net to put North Surry up 2-0.
Juan Ramirez made a run up the left sideline after receiving a pass from Phillip Brantley. Though Ramirez’s shot was saved by Draughn, it allowed the Cardinals to set up shop on North’s half. Allred and Gonzalo Chavez both had looks at the goal in this span, but neither could connect.
Time was running out for the Cardinals. Failure to finish on a corner kick seemed to spell the end for East’s chances. However, Chavez intercepted a pass on the Hounds’ attack and took the ball all the way down the field to score with just four minutes remaining.
At higher levels of soccer, the clock does not stop for goals. Players often retrieve the ball quickly and run it back to midfield to give them time to score again. The clock stops for injuries and goals in high school, leaving no reason for players to rush the ball back to midfield.
Despite this, East Surry players ran to take the ball from Draughn, leading to a scuffle between the two teams. The referees consulted after separating the players and restoring order. The skirmish ended with a red card being given to Allred, meaning East had to play the final four minutes with 10 men.
A long throw from Chavez was the last hope for the Cardinals. Ramirez connected with the throw, but it was snatched away by Draughn before he could set up a quality shot. Time soon expired and North emerged with the victory.
North Surry will resume conference play by traveling to Carver tonight. East Surry will have time to recuperate before facing conference rival Mount Airy on Friday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith