Wilkes Central visited Millers Creek on Wednesday evening for a crucial Mountain Valley Athletic Conference soccer contest with the Blackhawks.
Although Brandon Lopez, playing on an injured ankle, posted a hat trick to lead the Eagles to a 5-2 win, both coaches were quick to point out that the defensive effort of Tradin Allen was probably the most impressive performance of the game.
“Tradin did an outstanding job on their top guy (Jack McNeill),” said Wilkes Central Head Coach Jim Caudill. “He did get one but for the most part Tradin kept in check all night.”
West Wilkes Head Coach Wesley Golds echoed Caudill’s sentiments.
“Tradin Allen did a great job marking Jack,” said Golds. “We thought that they might use that strategy and we game-planned to handle it but they executed (their plan) better than we did.”
Most of the game was contested on the middle third of the field as both teams largely played solid defense for the majority of the 80-minute match.
Statistically speaking, the match was remarkably even as West (9-5, 4-4) took 17 shots, nine of which were on goal, while Central (6-7, 6-2) fired 14 shots, 10 of which were on goal.
“I told Brandon (Lopez) that as long as he had one leg to walk on we needed him on the field,” said Caudill.
Lopez definitely responded to Caudill’s challenge, netting two first half goals which gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead at the close of the first 40 minutes.
“I challenged my kids during the break,” said Golds. “They came back in the second half and made a game of it.”
McNeill managed to elude Allen’s defense and the rest of the Eagle backline to score in the 42nd minute to cut the lead to 2-1.
Seven minutes later, Lopez nailed his third goal to push the Eagle lead back to two, but in the 55th minute, Alexi Ramires scored on an assist from Moses Reyes to cut it to 3-2.
In the 59th minute, Miguel Mariano managed to sneak one past Blackhawk keeper Dylan Miller; Alejandro Oqueli added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute.
“Miguel’s goal was big for us,” said Caudill. “It got us the separation that we needed to hang on for the win.”
Eagle Keeper Roman O’Sullivan had five saves while his Blackhawk counterpart, Miller, had four.
With the victory, the Eagles established a two-game lead over West Wilkes and North Wilkes for third-place in the MVAC standings. Central is one game behind second-place Ashe County.
“This was a tough game,” said Golds. “Jim Caudill’s teams are always well-prepared. I felt like our kids played hard and they never quit. We will learn from today and take on East Wilkes on Monday.”
The Eagles will travel to Hays on Monday to face the Vikings of North Wilkes.
“We are still searching for ways to get better,” said Caudill. “We played a lot of folks tonight and I felt like our backline played well.”