Pinecrest at Westover
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
Wolverine Den, Fayetteville, NC
| The hot ticket in Moore County on Saturday night is the boys' soccer game between Pinecrest and Union Pines.
In the third edition of what has become one of the special sports nights in the community, the Patriots (9-2) will face the Vikings (7-3-2) at the John Williams Athletic Complex on Sandhills Youth Soccer Night.
The varsity contest at 7 p.m. will be preceded by the junior varsity game at 5 p.m.
Both teams come into the affair on good runs after suffering early losses against quality competition. The Patriots will be seeking their seventh win in a row while the Vikings are trying to extend their unbeaten streak to six.
Pinecrest won the first two matches between the teams, 2-0 and 1-0. Last year's game was attended by 1,700 fans, nearly half of them SYSL players.
"It's great for the little kids to watch what they'll be doing years from now," says Dalton Hadlock of Union Pines, who will be making his third appearance in the rivalry contest. "For the two teams, it's all it's hyped up to be -- high intensity -- a great game."
Tickets will not be required for SYSL soccer players, who are wearing their uniform jerseys and accompanied by a parent. They will be watching players perform that were sitting in their shoes not that long ago.
"I remember when I was a kid and came out to see Pinecrest play," says Patriot senior Coby Kavanaugh. "They were all my heroes then -- Danny Milewski, Gabe Bruno (now a Patriot assistant coach) and a lot more. The kids all want to play for Union Pines and Pinecrest."
If the previous matches in the series, along with this year's results, are any measure, a low-scoring match is in the forecast.
"Our goal every game is to shut out our opponent," Kavanaugh says. "If they can't score, they can't beat us."
The Patriots have outscored their opponents 39-13. Their only losses were to eighth-ranked Hoggard and No. 12 Terry Sanford. They led second-ranked Apex 2-0 in the 26th minute before the game was suspended because of lightning (to be completed at a later date).
The Patriots lost all-region defender Jordan Howlett to a knee injury before the season started, but an all-new backline combined with senior goalkeeper Bradley McKeever has performed well.
Led by all-region goalkeeper Travis Frazier, and four-year defender Drew Klalo, the 3-A Vikings have allowed 10 goals while scoring 30. In only one match have they allowed more than one goal. The losses were to Rocky Mount, Clayton and Harnett Central.
Games against common opponents favor the 4-A Patriots. They defeated Rocky Mount 2-0 and Jack Britt 5-0. The Vikings lost to Rocky Mount 1-0 and tied Britt at 1-1.
Coming off a 22-2-1 season, the experienced Union Pines squad got off to a 3-3-1 start. Jeremy Blake became the head coach a week before the first match. He replaced Chris Hadlock, who accepted a position at East Montgomery after turning around the boys' and girls' soccer programs at Union Pines.
"I think we've come a long way from the beginning of the season," Dalton Hadlock says. "I think we're pretty close to where we need to be."
Juniors Va Cha, with six goals in the last two games, and Brian Hayes lead the Viking attack. Kavanaugh, with 11 goals, and sophomores Max Brenner and Aaron Stroker pace the Patriots in that department.
But Saturday's outcome might be decided by which of the teams' strong midfields gets the upper-hand.
Hadlock, a 2006 all-state selection, and the school's career scoring leader, combines with senior Chris Wylie in the center of the Viking midfield. Junior Matt Carricker and sophomore Thomas Goulden are expected to patrol that area for the Patriots with Stroker, Hieronymus and John Kropp, who scored four goals against Westover on Wednesday, on the outside.
"Chris Wylie is a good midfielder," says Hieronymus, who played with him in youth soccer and at Pinecrest as a freshmen. "Winning the midfield is very important. I think we have a pretty good midfield and can handle it."
Hayes, who sometimes operates out of the midfield, is particularly concerned about one aspect of the Patriot attack.
"Their mid-wings are very strong," he says. "We're going to have to stop their crosses and make sure Coby doesn't get those head balls in the middle. We've got to shut that down."
The Patriots are also dangerous in that area via the long throw-ins of Carricker and Goulden's corner kicks aimed at tall targets in Kavanaugh and Tyler Dawson.
Pinecrest coach Larry Martin won his 200th game at the school last year, with the milestone win coming against Union Pines. He and Blake are both currently active in the SYSL.
In addition to coaching two youth boys' teams, Blake serves as the goalkeeper coach at Methodist College. Coming into this season, he was more familiar with the Pinecrest players, through his SYSL involvement, than his own players.
"I have great respect for Jeremy Blake," Martin says. "I think he's done a great job jumping in and sorting things out -- evaluating kids and getting them organized.
"They're a talented group. I think they're starting to show what they are capable of. You just go down the list and they've got talent all over the field."
That it's a game among friends and neighbors may be lost during the 80 minutes or more that the two teams compete on the field.
"It's probably our biggest game of the season, pre-playoff," the Vikings' Frazier says. "We've got a lot of fans out there and it's pretty intense. If we play our game, I don't think we'll have any trouble."
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