There are good ties and bad ties. And then there are those where both sides are just glad to say “Whew, at least we didn’t lose.”
North Surry and Mount Airy played to a draw on Tuesday evening that clearly fell into the third category, as the teams battled back and forth across the pitch in a showdown that wasn’t decided until the Granite Bears’ last shot at the Hounds’ goal sailed high and wide left of the net with six seconds remaining.
“I felt like we were playing with some adversity tonight, some calls didn’t go our way, and we were playing a team that is undefeated at their place, and we played through it and got a tie,” said Mount Airy coach Will Hurley. “This is the type of match that gets you ready for the conference. This was a really good game for us, everything you want a non-cinference game to be.”
The sentiment was much the same on the other side of the field.
“We were so close to winning, and they were too. It was a good ballgame,” said North Surry coach Phil Jordan. “I’m proud of the kids. This was a tough ballgame and we played hard. Mount Airy is a good ballclub, they played hard and they’ve improved a lot. There’s no shame on our part, we tried our best.”
North Surry, which entered the match as the state’s fourth-ranked 2A team according to MaxPreps.com, sustained the first blemish on its record but remained unbeaten this season at 5-0-1. The Greyhounds won the time of possession battle by a roughly 60/40 ratio, but lost their perfect record thanks to the efforts of the Bears’ Matthew Dodd and Austin Tumbarello, whose frequent attacks netted them each a goal, and keeper Jesus Orozco, who made some impressive saves in the second half that kept the home team from scoring the winning goal.
Mount Airy, the state’s sixth-ranked 1A team, moved to 6-2-1 on the season. The Bears averted a season sweep at the hands of North Surry, which had beaten them 2-1 on Aug. 29.
The Hounds opened the match aggressively and had their first shot on goal a minute in, when Alfredo Vazquez beat Orozco to a loose ball a long away from the net, but kicked the ball over the wide-open goal, much to the relief of the Mount Airy players and fans. From there, North Surry seemed to have an edge on the field, but the Bears did occasionally clear the ball and manage to go on the attack. In the 10th minute, Tumbarello nearly gave the visitors a 1-0 lead on one such occasion, when he headed a corner kick over the top of the net.
Sixteen minutes in, Diony Hernandez had a wide-open shot against Orozco, but the Bears’ keeper was up to the challenge and turned it away. The Hounds had several chances to score in the opening 20 minutes, but too often, couldn’t quite make the connection on crossing passes. Mount Airy settled in during the last 20 of the first half and the teams played on more equal footing.
“At times, we didn’t pass the ball like we should,” Jordan said. “We tried to dribble the ball too much. We’ve got to do a little bit better job of sharing the ball.”
With 65 seconds left in the half, Tumbarello had another near-miss, this time putting one just off the left post after a long throw-in from Malcolm Malone. The ball hit off the side of the post and ricocheted out front, where the Hounds managed to clear it and turn the ball the other way.
When the North midfielders won the battle after the ball was cleared, the tables were turned and the home team went on the attack. With 22 seconds to go, Victor Casa moved the ball to his left in traffic, where Hernandez finished it off for a 1-0 lead.
After the break, the Hounds nearly doubled their lead in the 44th minute, when Vazquez had another opening against Orozco, only to the see the Mount Airy keeper making a diving save to his left and keep the score at 1-0. After several minutes, the Bears established control at the other end, and Ivan Barrientos made a save against Julio Contreras in the 51st minute. However, the visitors kept the heat on, and a minute and a half later, Mount Airy tied the score on a play where the Bears had three against two in the box, were denied once, but Matthew Dodd stayed with it and put one into the goal.
The deadlock didn’t last very long. With 26:54 to play, just 79 seconds later, the Bears were whistled for a foul in their goal box area, and North Surry was awarded a penalty kick that incensed Hurley to the point that he got a yellow card. Alexis Cortez managed to catch Orozco leaning too much the other way to stop the shot, and the Hounds led again.
“I didn’t feel like that PK was justified,” said Hurley. “I don’t like getting cards, but I felt like I had to stand up for my team there.”
Two minutes later, it was the Bears’ turn to miss a wide-open net when the keeper came out too far, but they didn’t get discouraged and kept attacking, as did North Surry. However, it was the visitors who got the next goal, when Tumbarello took a long shot from near their sideline about 25 yards out. The ball caromed off the right post and into the net, much to the delight of the Bear faithful.
Less than a minute later, Orozco saved the day with a two-hand save against a blast from an unmarked Cortez. With 7:20 to play, he saved the day for the Bears again, this time ranging far to his left and knocking away a shot from Vazquez from 14 yards out with an outstretched left hand. Back came Mount Airy, switching the field and nearly taking the lead themselves at 5:25, when Malone had a header and then a rebound following a corner kick, only to see Barrientos save them both.
With 2:10 remaining, Vazquez made a run down the middle of the field, but Daniel Garcia got there in time and kept him from getting another free run at the keeper. In the last minute, the Bears sent it back in the other direction but couldn’t score.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.