For the second straight match, the East Wilkes Cardinals had to dig out from a two-goal deficit to earn a draw at home against a Stokes county opponent.
Monday night, the opponent was the South Stokes Sauras, and the final was 3-3 after 80 minutes. The draw was the second for the Cardinals in as many games and brought East Wilkes’ record to 0-0-2 in the early season.
“We would like to not have to play from behind for once,” commented East Wilkes Head Coach Austin Bare after the match.
The game started slowly as both teams struggled to settle into an offensive rhythm. East Wilkes had difficulty connecting passes between the forwards in its 4-3-3 lineup while South Stokes (0-3-1) could not find its forwards with long balls from the backline and deep lying midfielders.
East Wilkes would have the first real opportunity of the match when last minute substitute Hank Porter got behind the Saura defense, but sent the subsequent cross a bit too far for the Cardinal forwards.
The Sauras struck first on the scoreboard when forward Tyler Whitaker split the backline and found himself one on one with East Wilkes goalkeeper Jose Juarez in the 24th minute. Juarez made the initial save but Whitaker collected his own rebound and placed it in the empty net for the 1-0 lead.
The Sauras doubled their lead before halftime through midfielder Utah Mendenhall’s 40-yard shot that was just out of the grasp of a leaping Juarez.
After the match, it was revealed that Juarez was playing with an injured knee that affected his ability to jump throughout the game. Mendenhall’s goal gave the Sauras the 2-0 halftime lead.
During the halftime break, the Cardinals came to life in the locker room.
The Cardinals renewed efforts paid immediate dividends as forward Adalian Trindad-Ventura recovered a dropped ball from the Sauras goalkeeper and dribbled to the left before being fouled from behind in the penalty box. Trindad-Ventura converted the ensuing penalty kick, cutting the Saura advantage in half.
“I didn’t have to say anything. The leaders spoke up and the team came out with a renewed passion in the second half,” said Bare during the break
Six minutes later, forward Hank Porter worked a 1-2 pass off a throw-in and carried the ball down the goal line towards the Saura goal before being illegally shoved off the ball in the box. Trinidad-Ventura stepped to the penalty spot again and once again found the back of the net for the equalizer in the 47th minute.
The match was a contrast in styles as the Sauras looked for volume while East Wilkes focused on quality. South Stokes launched long ball after long ball into the East Wilkes defense, garnering few real chances but plenty of distance shots. East Wilkes didn’t have the shot numbers that South Stokes did over the match, but was nearly even on shots on goal.
The Sauras took the lead on another distance shot, this time from midfielder Elijah Booe, whose shot from outside 20 yards again beat Juarez high.
The Cardinals evened the score three minutes later through a spectacular effort by center forward Dylan Ward. The junior worked a wall pass with forward Trinidad-Ventura and used the space to attack the box.
Ward then dribbled through five different Saura defenders before blasting a hard shot from the left side of the box that beat Saura goalkeeper Carson Stanley to tie the match at 3-3.
The final 19 minutes were peppered with a few chances for each team, but none really threatening the score line. After the match, Bare commented on the work of his forwards in the second half.
“I thought our forwards really connected in the last 30 minutes of the second half. Especially AD (Trinidad-Ventura) and Dylan,” said Bare. “They worked well together, connecting passes and giving us opportunities.”
The Cardinals took to the pitch again Wednesday in Pilot Mountain against the East Surry Cardinals but dropped a 6-0 decision. They’ll be back in action next Wednesday at Walkertown.