PILOT MOUNTAIN — The East Surry boys’ soccer team appeared to be slightly outmanned in its Northwest 1-A Conference battle with Bishop McGuinness, but it took a controversial red-card for the visiting Villains to finally pull away for a 3-0 victory Thursday evening.
The Cardinals (4-7, 1-1 NWC) were down just 1-0 and starting to have some success getting the ball into the McGuinness end of the field when one of the officials sent off senior Trace Simmons with 29 minutes remaining in the contest. Simmons protested the ejection, but to no avail.
“The referee claimed that he punched the kid in the back while they were going for the ball,” said East coach Mike Lowery. “Trace said he was just moving the him out of the way. Unfortunately, there’s no film for us to see what happened.”
Simmons’ red card makes him ineligible to play in the Cardinals’ next two matches, on Tuesday at home against Atkins and Oct. 6 at Mount Airy, but his loss was felt immediately against the Villains (7-5, 2-0). Not only was East Surry reduced to just 10 men on the field against 11 for McGuinness, it also forced Lowery into other lineup changes.
Ryan Sutterby, who had been outstanding in goal to that point, was switched to take Simmons’ place in the defense. He had already racked up 14 saves, including two brilliant stops in live action and one penalty kick turned away during the first half.
Kendall Williams replaced Sutterby in the net and played very well in his own right, saving eight of the 10 shots he faced despite his team being down a man. But the incident pretty much sealed the Cardinals’ fate.
Three and a half minutes after the red card, the Villains’ Brandon Linares got free about 15 yards to the right of the goal and got a clear shot at Williams. The ball sailed high and hit the crossbar, but ricocheted downward and just inside the goal to give McGuinness a 2-0 lead.
With 18 minutes left, Linares did it again, this time getting behind the defense from about eight yards out and again managing to push one past Williams.
The Villains kept on attacking the rest of the match, but the Cardinals kept them off the board and even managed a few counterattacks despite being shorthanded. With 90 seconds left in the match, Javier Ruiz put a shot on goal from 30 yards out, but the McGuinness keeper stopped it.
“When we lost Trace, it kind of took the air out of us,” said Lowery. “We were playing with only 10 men, but we played hard and we didn’t quit.”
The Villains came out attacking and got their first shot on Sutterby after just 52 seconds of play, but the Cardinals had two chances of their own to score in the first six and a half minutes, including one where Gonzalo Chavez appeared to be bumped in front of the net when he attempted to head a ball toward the McGuinness goal.
The Cardinals had perhaps their best chance to score with 7:30 left before the break, when Andrew Rogers broke free down the middle of the field with only one defender near him. Rogers took a shot from about 25 yards out that sailed far to the right. He protested that the defender had fouled him on the shot, but no call was made.
The visitors went on the attack after that and remained on it for the remainder of the first half. Ten minutes into the match, the Villains’ Carl Klier fired a hard shot at Sutterby from close in, but the sophomore keeper went far to his left and made a diving save.
Seven minutes later, he put the kibosh on a penalty kick, and shut out the Villains all the way to the 2:38 mark, when Linares finally snuck a shot just under the crossbar and past Sutterby for a 1-0 lead.
The Villains had a chance to score again in the final 25 seconds when a loose ball went to the opposite side of the net from the keeper, but Noah Shaw cleared it out and kept the score at 1-0 going to intermission.
Reach John on Twitter @johncate73.