When the 1-A playoff draw was announced and Mount Airy’s first-round opponent was revealed as Roxboro Community, Granite Bears head coach Will Hurley noted that there were very few sources of information on the Bulldogs. Neither he nor any of his players knew anything about what Roxboro had to offer.
The answer was…not nearly enough.
In the absence of any kind of scouting report, the Bears decided on a simple approach to dealing with their guests — attack. Less than 15 seconds into the match, Mount Airy’s Anselmo Salazar had already moved to the shadow of the Bulldogs’ goal and made a nifty cross in front of the net, where Noah Carver got to the ball before any of the Bears did. But that was just the start of a long night for the Roxboro keeper.
“We pushed the ball up well tonight,” Hurley said. “We were really aggressive, and I’m pleased overall with the way we played.”
The visitors held Mount Airy (16-5-1) off the board for about five and a half minutes before the roof caved in on them. In a span of just 29 seconds, Jose Perez and Jeremy Chappell collected two quick goals. The first came on a melee in front of the net involving several players. Perez settled the ball and put it in from about seven yards out. Then, after the kickoff, the Bears quickly seized control of the ball and Chappell scored on a breakaway down the home side. With 33:56 left in the first half, it was already 2-0.
The Bulldogs held on defensively for another four minutes before the relentless Mount Airy attack broke through again. This time, it was Chandler Snyder beating a Roxboro defender to a loose ball about 14 yards in front of the goal. Snyder unleashed a powerful kick that rocketed into the net for a 3-0 lead at 29:43.
Lightning again came in pairs for the Bears. Just 72 seconds later, Chappell got a pass fronm Salazar and punched in his second goal of the night, making it 4-0. Within a minute, Hurley was already beginning to make substitutions in his lineup. This helped the Bulldogs slow down the Mount Airy attack a little, but not nearly enough.
For the last 25 minutes of the first half, the Bears continued to pepper Carver with shots. He made several saves, but the ability of the Mount Airy forwards to run circles around his back-line defenders made it a fruitless endeavor. At 21:12, Salazar crossed to Chappell, who just missed the right post and a hat trick. Three minutes later, he got it done. After settling a ball 25 yards in front of the goal, Chappell let loose a powerful kick toward the goal. Carver, screened by one of his own defenders, didn’t react until it was too late.
Four minutes later, Roxboro got its first and only shot on goal of the match, following the award of an indirect free kick. Bulldog forward Chipi Llerena proved to be a handful for the Bears, but Mount Airy’s ability to control of the ball meant that Llerena rarely had an opportunity to test its defense.
“Our passing was pretty good, considering what the field conditions were,” said Hurley, whose quicker and more skilled team was slowed down all evening by the rain-soaked field. “We controlled the ball very well.”
That ball control led to two more goals before the first half ended. At 11:36, a Roxboro defender cleared a ball from in front of his team’s goal, but not far enough, and it rebounded right to Matthew Dodd, who finished it off. Almost exactly seven minutes later, the lead ballooned to 7-0 when Perez split a double-team from about 15 yards and kicked one into the net.
The only drama after intermission was when the Bears would reach a nine-goal lead and trigger the mercy rule. To their credit, the Bulldogs played hard and staved off elimination for more than 15 minutes. At 26:40, Dodd knocked one in from about 13 yards out, and at 24:05, Brown blasted a ball into the net for the match-ending goal.
Mount Airy likely completed an undefeated (10-0-1) season on its home field with the win. The Bears’ second-round match will be at Avery County (10-10), a 3-0 winner over Albemarle on Wednesday night. The match is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Avery.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.