North Wilkes couldn’t score a goal Monday night, and Tuesday they couldn’t make an important late game stop.
But Wednesday night in Ronda everything came together, as the Vikings posted a 4-2 victory over East Wilkes.
The Mountain Valley Athletic Conference win improved the Vikings to 4-4 in the league standings. That’s good enough for a tie for fourth with West Wilkes, though the Blackhawks beat the Vikings 3-0 Monday.
The Vikings, 10-5-1 overall, scored all four goals in the first half and seemed on path to cruise through half number two. But the Cardinals (2-11-2, 1-7) played a gritty final 40 minutes, outscoring the visitors 1-0 despite leaving several scoring opportunities on the pitch.
“I got a little worried in the second half,” admitted North Wilkes Head Coach James Cline, whose team played without the services of top scorer Alex Ruvalcaba. “They made a couple of adjustments at halftime with their personal, and it paid off. They were dangerous in the second half. Luckily for us, our defense played great down the stretch.”
Down 4-1 at the break, East challenged the Vikings from the second-half whistle on, with three solid scoring chances generated in the half’s first four minutes.
Finally, in the 45th, Huston Hall delivered a rocket from several yards outside the penalty box. North keeper Braydon McGlamery made a play on the ball and almost grabbed it as he dove to his right. But the hard-hit shot rolled off his fingers and past the goal line, and the score was 4-2.
The Cardinals had other chances in the second, none greater than on a penalty kick in the 59th.
Abram Sparks earned the PK with his work on the left side of the pitch and Adalian Trinidad-Ventura took it. But Trinidad-Ventura’s shot sailed high and over the crossbar and the Vikings snuffed out any other chances in the match’s last 20 minutes.
Sparks, according to East Wilkes Head Coach Austin Bare, was the key to his squad’s second-half surge.
“We moved Abram from the back to the front. Honestly, wherever we put him we know we’re going to be better. And once he moved we started generating a lot of shots.
“We also got a nice match out of Alex Rondin,” continued Bare. “Once we moved Abram, we needed someone to put in the back. And Alex is a kid who is willing to play wherever you need him. We needed to make sure they didn’t get another goal after halftime, and Alex was a big part of that.”
But the deficit was too much to overcome, thanks to a furious flurry of three North goals in nine minutes of first half play.
The match was tied at 1-1 apiece after goals from North’s Ivan Duran (14th) and East’s Trinidad-Ventura (19th) when the Vikings took off. First, constant pressure between the pipes resulted in a score from Kevin Hernandez in the 24th that would give the visitors the lead for good.
Two more goals came in quick succession in the 32nd and 33rd minutes. Beautiful passing made it 3-1, starting with North’s D. J. Stanley at midfield.
Stanley took possession and passed to a streaking Yeferson Bonilla on the left, hitting the junior in stride. Bonilla then crossed back to Duran on the right near the post, and before East could recover Duran powered the ball across the face of the goal and into the net.
Duran’s second of the match was the result of textbook passing, something Cline was glad to see.
“We played with touch tonight, and the result was four goals,” said Cline. “We did that to start last night’s match and went up 2-0, but then reverted to old habits and started booting the ball (in a 3-3 tie at South Stokes).
“When we spread the field and give ourselves room to run, and make good decisions with the soccer ball, we can be a dangerous team.”
One minute after Duran’s second, North Wilkes struck again. This time a free kick from just outside the box was taken by freshman Samuel Panneton, and the freshman zipped the ball up and over the wall and into the goal.
“We made some mistakes defensively in the first half,” said Bare. “But we did a good job putting that behind us. I always tell the kids it isn’t over until it’s over, and I think we’re starting to believe that.”
North next faces Wilkes Central on the road on Monday, while East travels to play at West Wilkes.