PILOT MOUNTAIN — The second meeting of the season between the Mount Airy and East Surry soccer teams provided evidence that the Cardinals were an improved team.
Just not nearly enough.
In a match where both coaches felt their teams could have played better, the Granite Bears rode a four-goal second half and a hat trick by Matthew Dodd to a 5-0 victory over their hosts on East Surry’s Senior Night.
Mount Airy (14-5-2, 4-2 Northwest 1A Conference) had long periods of time during the match when it was unable to mount any effective attack against the Cardinals, but led 1-0 at the break, thanks to Dodd heading a ball past East Surry keeper Kendal Williams in the seventh minute of action.
“Sometimes it’s like we’re just going through the motions and waiting for someone else to step up,” said Mount Airy coach Will Hurley. “Of course, we did have two starters out, and East Surry is a lot better than they were the first time we played them.”
The Cardinals had several chances to get on the board throughout the match, but were never able to make connections on that extra pass needed for a quality shot on goal. When they did get a good shot off, Bear goalkeeper Jesus Orozco was up to the challenge.
In the second half, East Surry wore down and the Mount Airy offense opened up, as it had when the teams first met back on Sept. 27. In that match, the Bears led just 2-0 at halftime but ended up winning 10-1.
“We played a very good first half, but in the second half, we just started walking,” said East Surry coach Neal Oliver. “They played a very good second half. I think our kids just wear down, they lose focus, and they get out of position and don’t get back.”
The Cardinals actually had an excellent opportunity to tie the match right after halftime. Two and a half minutes into the second half, Gonzalo Chavez had a straight-on shot from about 25 yards away that Orozco had to reach up and deflect over the crossbar, saving a goal by inches. However, East Surry was unable to convert on the ensuing corner kick and the Bears quickly flipped the field on them.
A little over a minute later, Cooper Nester headed in a ball off a corner kick by Julio Contreras, and Mount Airy’s lead was 2-0. The Cardinals protested that the Bears were offside when the goal was scored, but the official ruled otherwise.
In the 46th minute, Austin Tumbarello dribbled his way for close to 65 yards against two East Surry markers, but they were able to force him to the right of the goal and make him take his shot at an angle. The ball went over the top of the crossbar. However, the Bears kept it in the Cardinals’ end after the ensuing goal kick, and both Tumbarello and Dodd were denied in the ninth minute, when the former headed one off the crossbar and back into play. Dodd settled it in from and blasted a shot at Williams, who denied him.
He didn’t deny Dodd six minutes later, though. The senior was on the spot for another rebound out of the goal and this time he got it past Williams for a 3-0 lead with 25:34 left to play.
Dodd got his hat trick three minutes later, scoring from 30 yards away to make it 4-0.
The Cardinals had several more chances to get on the board over the next several minutes, in part due to improved pay at the offensive end and in part because Hurley started going to his bench, including sending a few of his junior varsity players into the match to gain some experience.
The Bears’ final goal came in the 87th minute, when Drew Tilly broke free down the middle of the field and none of the East Surry defenders could stay with him. In what amounted to a penalty-kick situation for Williams, Tilly came out on top and got the ball just underneath his hands to finish the scoring.
Mount Airy is tied for second place in the conference with Walkertown, two behind Bishop McGuinness, as the regular season winds down. However, the Bears could potentially get a challenge from an improved Atkins team that they edged 6-5 in Winston-Salem last week, before finishing at home against Bishop on Oct. 25. Following the match, Hurley admonished his team that they would have to display a more consistent effort if they wanted to defeat the Camels tonight.
In the first half of the match, Dodd headed a ball over the net two minutes in, and then the Cardinals got the ball going the other way and Javier Ruiz nearly scored off a breakaway, forcing Orozco to make a leaping save over his head. Later in the first half, Mount Airy’s Contreras and Alex Bowers both had excellent chances to score, as did Chavez for East, but none finished.
The Cardinals are off until they host Atkins on Oct. 25, then finish at North Surry two nights later.
East Surry seniors Williams, Garret Atkins and Sean Escutia were honored at halftime for their contributions to the program.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.