DOBSON — It’s no disrespect to anyone to say that Surry Central was the heavy favorite in Monday evening’s non-conference showdown with county rival East Surry.
The talented and experienced Golden Eagles have been ranked in the state 2A top 10 all season long, and are expected to contend strongly for the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title when league play gets under way in two weeks. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have shown spirit and kept their heads up during a tough non-conference slate, but there’s no mistaking this for anything but a rebuilding year.
“It’s always good to play county opponents,” said Surry Central coach Blake Roth. “A lot of these boys are friends. East Surry is in a rebuilding year, and we’re on top right now because we are so senior-laden.”
Despite the rivalry between the two county schools, the match itself was played cleanly, with the only potential trouble nipped in the bud by one of the officials, who caught players using inappropriate language in Spanish and issued a warning.
In the match itself, the hosts jumped on East Surry from the get-go, built a 7-0 lead by halftime, and eventually ended the match with 11:38 remaining on the clock after Hernan Garcia pushed a shot from outside the right post inside the left one to make the score 9-0. At that point, per NCHSAA rules, the match was called to an early halt.
Fans of the Eagles (8-2) were actually hoping to go home early, cheering their team on during a second half that was much more competitive than the first. With Roth using different combinations of players and the Cardinals refusing to simply fold, it took most of the second half for Central to put the match away. It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that the Eagles scored their eighth goal. This one was an impressive individual effort by Arturo Lopez, moving into the middle of the East Surry defense and weaving his way through defenders before finally getting a little bit of an opening from 15 yards out. From there, he pushed a hard shot past Cardinal keeper Garret Atkins for the score.
Although the record will show that Atkins surrendered nine goals to Central, he also was in double digits with 11 saves, as the quicker and more experienced Eagles repeatedly beat defenders and took him one-on-one. He made a number of stops, especially in the second half, that kept East Surry alive much longer than anyone could have expected.
That was about all the Cardinals could hope for, however.
Surry Central drew first blood in the seventh minute of action, when Axel Rangel assisted Nolan McMillen on a goal that put the Eagles in front 1-0. Six minutes later, the action moved to the other side of the field, with Garcia getting the assist on a Luis Padilla goal. Not two minutes more passed before McMillen scored his second goal, this time off an assist from Isaac Sanchez, to extend the Central lead to 3-0.
The Eagles had found some cracks in the young East Surry defense, and they continued to exploit them in the latter part of the first half. In the 21st minute, Ernie Caro tallied a goal to make it 4-0. Less than three minutes later, it was Rodrigo Landaverde’s turn. Using some fancy footwork to Atkins’ left, he beat a defender and fired a shot from a difficult angle that struck the inside of the left post. Unfortunately for the visitors, the shot then ricocheted to the inside, and ended up inside the goal for a 5-0 Central advantage.
In the 27th minute, the rain of goals continued, as Brandon Martinez scored off an assist from Lopez. The final goal of the Eagles’ first-half blitzkrieg came with 3:02 before intermission, when Caro scored again. He got free down the middle of the field and put the ball inside the left post.
In the last minute of the first half, East Surry fans finally had something to cheer about, as Javier Ruiz got free for a shot from about 20 yards out, but missed outside the left post.
The Cardinals generated much more offense in the second half, controlling the ball at least one-third of the time, but never could get on the board. Diego Rebollar had a chance in the 47th minute, but was denied a goal thanks to a diving save by Jonathan DeSantiago. Three minutes later, Central’s Andres Flores was denied a goal at the other end by Atkins, and for a while, it looked like the match could go the distance.
The Eagles will return to action on Thursday evening at Ashe County. East Surry will be off for a week before starting Northwest Conference play on Sept. 20 at home against Walkertown.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.