Mount Airy’s JJ Lachino has been known as one of the top players in the area for a while now, but he’d never literally brought in the thunder before.
That all changed on Thursday evening.
In the 16th minute of a scoreless match between the Granite Bears and Ashe County, Lachino finished off a cross from Austin Tumbarello from about 12 yards in front of the goal, giving Mount Airy, the state’s third-ranked 1A team according to MaxPreps.com, a 1-0 lead.
Thirteen seconds after play resumed, a loud clap of thunder was heard in the distance, and the referees were forced to send the teams back to the locker room and delay the match for 55 minutes.
Play resumed, and the Bears added another goal in the second half before lightning was sighted in the 68th minute. With the time at about 9:15 p.m. and the match having run long enough to be official, the referees called the match and Mount Airy claimed a 2-0 victory.
With the win, the Bears improved to 6-0 on the season with five more non-conference tune-ups ahead of them before starting Northwest 1A Conference play in mid-September. However, the matches with the Huskies were valued by Hurley, as Ashe County is a quality opponent that requires a team play well in order to beat.
“They’re a really good team,” said Hurley, whose team needed a goal with 37 seconds to play to beat the Huskies last year. “They play straight up and I enjoy playing them. It’s a good game to play.”
Ashe County actually had the first shot on goal on Thursday night, in the eighth minute of play. The Bears had their first two minutes after that, when Brandon Osorno put a rocket in on Ashe keeper Isaac Miller, but was turned away.
Mount Airy started to turn up the heat on Miller and the Ashe defense in the 13th minute, when Kaleb Morrison took a shot and pushed it just left of the goal. The Huskies tried to clear the ball out on a goal kick, but the Bears took possession back and Osorno was back on the attack in minute 14, crossing a ball to Morrison in front of the goal. The timing was just a split-second off, and the teams remained tied.
Not so in minute 16, when Austin Tumbarello made a run down the home side of the field while being aggressively man-marked by a Husky defender. He didn’t have a path to the goal himself, but he spotted Lachino coming down the middle of the field and back-crossed it toward his senior teammate, who beat two Ashe fullbacks and scored.
During the long delay that followed, the thunder and lightning finally passed, but it started to rain shortly after the match resumed.
Mount Airy nearly scored two minutes after play started again, but the Huskies soon reversed the field and had a period of nearly 10 minutes where they were on the attack and the Bears were struggling to get the ball out of their end. The Huskies’ Carson Keys was just high on a shot in the 20th minute, and Alex Roland tried to score on a header off an entry pass in the 25th minute and was just right of the goal.
In the 28th minute, Osorno had another chance and blasted a shot at Miller from about 10 yards out, but the Husky keeper was up to the challenge. Before the half was over, he also turned away a long shot from Lachino and watched one from Dante Collins go wide right. Morrison and Austin Tumbarello also just missed on set-piece shots in the final seven minutes of the first half.
The second half was pretty much dominated by the Bears, at least until the lightning returned and ended things early. However, a combination of tough defense by the Huskies, quality play in goal by Miller, and some over-anxious shooting by Mount Airy kept the latter from opening it up.
Four minutes into the second half, Austin Tumbarello had an opportunity after a Bear corner kick, but his shot was saved by Ashe defender Chris Luna, who dove for the ball in front of the goal and headed it out of danger. But Mount Airy kept attacking, and in the 47th minute of play, Morrison and then Osorno were denied on back-to-back shots, with the ball rebounding back to Osorno after Morrison’s shot was stopped. Barely a minute later, Miller denied Osorno again. This time, he got the ball ahead to his own team, and Ashe missed a 40-foot shot to the left of the goal and Bear keeper Jesus Valadez.
After Valadez saved another Husky shot in the 54th minute, Hurley admonished his team to play its own game and stop responding to what Ashe County was doing. Finally in the 57th minute, Osorno surprised everyone when he unloaded from 33 yards away and Miller couldn’t pick it up in traffic in front of the goal. The ball rocketed into the net to the right of the keeper and the Bears held a 2-0 lead.
“Sometimes we get into this thing of doing what the other team is doing,” said Hurley. “But I liked how we played overall.”
The Bears kept peppering the goal area with hard shots over the next several minutes, while the Bear defense led by Jackson Tumbarello quickly sent any Ashe passes downfield back in the other direction.
Mount Airy was in control of the match when the officials sighted lightning again with 12:38 left in the match and decided to end it.
The Bears will host Oak Hill Academy on Tuesday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.