Mount Airy made a mistake that it has made too often this season, letting an opponent pick up a cheap goal right at the end of a half.
Fortunately, that was the only thing the Granite Bears did wrong in Saturday’s opening round of the NCHSAA 1A state soccer playoffs at Wallace Shelton Stadium.
Mount Airy started its 2016 playoff run with an Austin Tunbarello goal two minutes into its match with Hayesville, then rolled to a 4-0 lead before surrending a goal to the Yellowjackets shortly before intermission. However, there would be no second-half comeback for the Smoky Mountain Conference’s third-place squad. The Bears kept the pressure up in the second half, and by the time the match was called early for the mercy rule, Matthew Dodd and Julio Contreras both had hat tricks, and their team had a 10-1 victory.
The Granite Bears (16-6-1 overall) face another Smoky Mountain Conference foe in their next match, but will have to make a long trip today in order to take on SMC champ Blue Ridge Early College at 4 p.m. Blue Ridge, which ran the table in its conference and is 16-1-1 overall, beat Hayesville 7-4 in overtime and 4-1 in its two meetings with the Yellowjackets. The two schools have no other common opponent this season.
Blue Ridge advanced to the second record with a 4-2 victory over River Mill Academy on Saturday afternoon.
After Tumbarello gave the Bears the early lead on Hayesville (7-10-0), Mount Airy continued to put heavy pressure on the Yellowjackets and had numerous scoring chances, but the visitors kept them out of the goal until the 16th minute, when all-state discus thrower Malcolm Malone put his throwing skills to good use with a long throw-in from the home sideline to the vicinity of the goal, where Dodd met the ball with his head and put it into the Hayesville goal to make it 2-0.
Six minutes later, Malone decided he would instead hurt the Yellowjackets with his legs, and he worked his way past two Hayesville defenders and lined up a straight-on shot from 13 yards away, which he blasted past the keeper for a 3-0 Bear advantage.
The score remained that way for more than 22 minutes before Contreras struck for the first time, putting one past the keeper with 3:37 left in the first half. The Yellowjackets scored their lone goal with 24 seconds to go before the break, but it made little difference when the teams came back for the second half.
Dodd scored on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute to make it 5-1. Two minutes later, he had his hat trick, and coach Will Hurley was already starting to clear his bench. Still, the Bears kept pouring it on, with Contreras getting his second goal in the 54th minute, and Jesus Martinez tallying one of his own about two minutes later.
Now it was 8-1, and with Hayesville noticeably getting leg-weary, it was just a question of how long the second half would last. Contreras got his hat trick with about 18 minutes left on the clock. Five minutes later, freshman Liam Overby scored and the match was over.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.