HENDERSONVILLE —Surry Central head coach Blake Roth only had one message for his team when it learned that its second-round opponent in the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs was Hendersonville: Just come ready to play, and the rest would take care of itself.
The message must have gotten through, because Central dispatched the Western Highlands 1A/2A champs with relative ease, advancing with a 4-1 road victory on Tuesday night.
The Golden Eagles became the last team from the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference still standing, controlling the action from start to finish even though the team faced a long road trip and playing conditions that were less than ideal for Surry Central, a team which relies on spacing, passing and speed to earn victories.
“They played on a field that was very small,” said Eagles coach Blake Roth, “but we adapted well to that and controlled the game with our passing fairly well.”
Central (19-4-1 overall) took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute when the Eagles were awarded a free kick from about 25 yards out. Fernando Talavera took the kick and managed to get it past the Bearcats’ keeper for the first goal of the match.
Hendersonville tied the match about five minutes later, after the Bearcats’ Matthew Mel made a long throw-in that reached the goal box. Central keeper Jonathan DeSantiago tried to clear the ball out of the goal with his hands, but collided with a teammate and a Hendersonville player, and the ball landed on the ground, where another Bearcat scored a chip-shot with everyone involved in the collision lying on the ground.
About five minutes later, in the 25th minute, the Golden Eagles regained the lead and would never give it back. Central was awarded a corner kick, something that they did with regularity as the match moved along, and Javier Villicaña settled it in front of the goal and blasted it past Hendersonville keeper Quinn Boeke. Boeke did manage to get a hand on the shot, but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
The third-seeded Bearcats (17-3-0) kept Central off the board for the last 15 minutes of the first half, but couldn’t equalize again, and the match was still in the air as the second half got under way.
The Eagles finally began to take control after the break, as they maintained their edge in ball possession. It finally paid off in the 63rd minute, when Hernán García cashed in a corner kick to extend the Central advantage to 3-1.
From there, the Eagles went into sort of a prevent mode, trying to work the ball into the corners and play keep-away from Hendersonville. The final goal was sort of unintentional, coming on a penalty kick with just 53 seconds remaining when the Bearcats were whistled for a foul in the box. Talavera converted it for the final score of the evening.
Surry Central advances to a third-round match with Lake Norman Charter on Thursday night. LNC, the champions of the Big South Conference, held off Lexington 1-0 on Tuesday to move on. The Knights (19-1-0) are the second seed in the quadrant.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.