DOBSON — The schedule said it was just an early-season match in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference slate for Surry Central and North Surry, but the way they played said it was more than that.
In a match that was contested with playoff-level intensity, the host Golden Eagles won round one of the battle for county, and possibly conference, bragging rights, claiming the victory over the Greyhounds 1-0 on a goal by Luis Padilla with 8:02 left in the contest.
“North Surry is one heck of a team, they are much improved. They have speed, they have size and they have talent, and I’m not looking forward to going to Toast in a week or two,” said Surry Central coach Blake Roth.
Surry Central (10-2, 1-0 WPAC) had a substantial edge in time of possession throughout the match, but was held scoreless until Miguel Tello sent a ball toward the left post from near the visitors’ sideline in the 72nd minute of play. Padilla, who was on the spot and had managed to drop his marker for one of the few times all evening, met the ball with his head and finally got a ball past North keeper Ivan Barrientos, who had performed brilliantly in net all match long.
From there, the Golden Eagles played tough defense and held on for the victory in a match that Roth described to his team as being akin to a “second-round playoff game.”
“This was a very physical game, very good touch, speed,” he said. “This was a caliber match with two caliber teams, and the team that made the fewest mistakes won. They left our guy unmarked and that’s the way it goes. But next time it might be a different story, so we’ve got to avoid mistakes ourselves.”
It was the first loss of the season for the Hounds, who fell to 9-1-2 and 1-1 in conference play.
“We really never did get into our offense,” said North Surry coach Phil Jordan. “Some of that was them, they played good defense on us. We did play well defensively, and hopefully, we’ll be able to make a few corrections and have a little more success down the road.”
North Surry may have went long periods of time without possessing the ball, but the Hounds did have a few opportunities to put Central keeper Jonathan DeSantiago to the test.
In the fifth minute of play, North was on the attack and got the ball into the center of the field from about 15 yards out, where senior Vincent Hernandez sent a rocket toward the goal. The kick was a sure goal if it had been just a few feet lower, but the ball instead struck the crossbar of the football goalpost and bounced away.’
Following that near-miss, the Golden Eagles went on the attack for the next 20 minutes and completely dominated play, rarely even letting the Hounds clear the ball to the midfield area. Central had five shots on goal but failed to hit any of them, save one in the 20th minute where the referee cited the Eagles for being offside after an apparent goal.
“Sometimes we were taking a little bit too much time to get shots off. We kept getting deflections that gave us corner kicks, but we couldn’t capitalize on them,” said Roth. “There are times when these kids start trying too hard when they can’t score.”
North Surry bounced back in the last 15 minutes of the opening half and had two more chances to score themselves, but DeSantiago saved them both, first by beating Alexis Cortes to a ball that had trickled free near the goal, and then again in the 31st minute, when he ran about 25 yards in front of the goal and snatched away a loose ball before the Hounds’ Jonathan Cabrera could put a foot on it.
The second half brought more of the same, with both teams trying to attack the other, but the Eagles more effective in so doing. In the 46th minute, Julio Sanchez sent a ball ahead to Tello for what looked like a Central goal, but Barrientos turned it away. Five minutes later, Rodrigo Landaverde tried to angle one past the keeper and Barrientos got that one, too.
The most frustrating time for the Eagles may have come in the 56th minute. The sequence started with Sanchez on the attack for Central, moving parallel to the end line. North’s Victor Casa cut him off, but sent the ball past the end line for a corner kick, which Sanchez took. His well-placed kick gave Landaverde a shot and then a rebound to Tello, but neither of them could crack Barrientos before North was able to clear the ball out.
It was more than 15 minutes before Central mounted another serious threat at the goal. With 10:15 remaining, Arturo Lopez sent a corner kick toward the Hound goal, and Fernando Talavera got to it before Barrientos did, but he headed it too high and over the net.
However, North was unable to clear the ball out of its own end following the goal kick, and two minutes later, Padilla hit the winner.
The Hounds will try to get back on track Wednesday at home against South Stokes (4-9-2, 0-1-1 WPAC). The Eagles will host Forbush (14-0-1, 2-0 WPAC) and try to knock off an unbeaten team in back-to-back matches.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.