NEWTON — Head coach Will Hurley says his 2018 edition of the Mount Airy men’s soccer team doesn’t have the level of depth that he would like, but the Granite Bears still had a strong preseason nevertheless.
The team scrimmaged five different teams during the last week before official matches are permitted, and Mount Airy came away with a 4-0-1 record in those scrimmages.
The most recent came on Saturday morning, when the Bears traveled to Fred T. Foard High School and played three different teams in scorching heat with very little break in between the three hour-long scrimmages played under match conditions.
“We are all worn out, including the coach,” said Hurley after his team completed the its fifth scrimmage in four days. “We had to play back-to-back-to-back today, and the sun was out. But the kids played pretty good. It’s been a pretty productive week for us.”
On Saturday, Mount Airy, which won a share of the Northwest 1A Conference title and went 23-2-1 last year, began its day at 10 a.m. with a scrimmage against North Gaston, a team from the Big South 3A Conference that went 16-6-1 last fall. The Bears won this scrimmage 1-0 on a goal produced by some nifty teamwork. Jackson Tumbarello passed the ball to the wing, where it was crossed to JJ Lachino, who passed to Austin Tumbarello, who in turn sent it to an open Drew Tilley, who finished to give his team the lead.
The Mount Airy defense did the rest.
There was no break for the Bears, who had to get right back on the field and play North Henderson next. The Knights, out of the Western Mountain 3A, were no match for Mount Airy, and Hurley eventually cleared the bench after his team had built a 5-0 lead. He had brought along the JV team, and they finished out the scrimmage, which ended as a 5-2 Mount Airy win.
Before Hurley subbed, Kaleb Morrison racked up a hat trick against the Knights.
The Bears finished up the day, already worn out, with a third straight match against a 3A team, Kannapolis A.L. Brown out of the South Piedmont Conference, which went 13-8-3 last year. Neither team scored in the first 40 minutes, then each team scored in short order, but the scrimmage ended in a 1-1 deadlock.
“It was a pretty skilled game on both sides, but both teams were tired,” said Hurley, whose team had originally been scheduled to play Morganton Freedom, but was switched to face Brown in the final round instead.
On Wednesday, the Bears had played their first two scrimmages of the season, traveling to West Iredell High School in Statesville. Mount Airy started out with the host school, a 2A team coming off a 10-12-2 season, and overcame a poor start to beat the Warriors 3-2. Later that day, the Bears faced North Iredell, a 3A team that went 10-6-2 last year, and showed better form in winning 2-0.
“We started slow, but then buckled down,” said Hurley.
After going undefeated in five scrimmages against larger schools, the only things Hurley was disappointed about was a shortage of on-field practice time in the preseason and the lack of depth. A handful of experienced players from last year’s 1A state semifinalists who were expected to return did not, and the team missed a lot of practice time due to the constant rain that fell in the first week of August.
“There’s a lot we need to work on, and dealing with the weather has put everyone behind,” he said. “There are some things you can’t work on when you have to practice inside the gym.
“But we have made a lot of improvement. This is a good group of young men, and these young kids are leaning the game and learning how to play with each other. If we can develop some more depth, we’ll be good to go. We’re looking forward to our first game on Tuesday.”
The Bears open at Alleghany on Tuesday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.