Pinecrest vs Union Pines
Saturday, September 29th, 2007
John Williams Field, Southern Pines, NC
| The Union Pines Vikings scored their first goal ever on Pinecrest Saturday, when Vike forward Va Cha put the ball in the back of the net on an assist from Chris Wylie with 19:56 remaining in the first half.
But Pinecrest battled back in the second half, using a Coby Kavanaugh goal to create a 1-1 tie in the Saturday night boys' soccer special at John Williams Athletic Complex, featuring the built-in excitement of a matchup between two cross-county rivals. Adding to the atmosphere was the fact that it was Sandhills Soccer Youth League night, with the stands filled with the multi-colored jerseys of the local youth teams. Most of the players on the field were products of the SYSL.
It was the third-ever meeting between the two Moore County schools. Pinecrest is a member of the 4-A Mid-Southeastern Conference, while the Vikings compete in the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference. The Patriots had chalked up wins in the first two meetings between the teams. Union Pines' overall record moved to 7-3-3 with the tie, while the Pats' went to 9-2-1.
A major element in the game was the fine performances of the two keepers: the Vikings' Brandon Frazier and the Patriots' Bradley McKeever.
"They are two quality guys that could easily play college ball if they decided to go to a program where they could fit in," said Pinecrest head coach Larry Martin. "They played excellent tonight, did great things for their teams and kept it interesting the whole way."
Although the keepers kept it interesting, it was a kick-save by Viking defender Jeremiah Mangrum that proved to be the biggest stop of the evening.
With less than five minutes left in the contest, Patriot Matt Carriker threw the ball in from near the five on the left side. Kavanaugh got his head on it, bouncing it off the left post where it then rolled ever so close to passing the goal line when Mangum booted the ball to make a save and crucial clear.
"I was watching Frazier's back," Mangrum said. "I'd say 95 percent of the time I probably whiff that ball, but I stopped the goal and it felt really good."
Before the game, Martin commented on what concerned him about the Vikes.
"Their size (height), toughness and physical play worries us most coming in." Martin said. "Also, they have a number of skilled players mixed in -- so we have to be on our toes and watch the transitions and long balls over the top."
The match was a tale of two halves. The Vikings outhustled the Patriots in the first period as they 'got stuck' on several tackles and won a majority of the 50-50 balls.
The Union Pines' defensive line of Brian Graner, Palmer Boles, Jacob Wilson and Drew Kalo were physical and made several important clears and tackles to stifle the Pats' attack.
Union Pines head coach Jeremy Blake said his defenders showed up to play.
"My back four did great," he said. "They were fired up and our keeper Travis Frazier came up big -- he had an exceptional night."
The Vikes got off 12 shots in the first half -- seven saved by McKeever. In contrast, Pinecrest managed three shots, two of which came off headers from senior forward Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh said the Patriots struggled to get the ball behind the Viking defense in the first half.
"They did a good job stepping in and clearing," he said.
McKeever said his team appeared to have problems with keeping the ball on the ground in the first half.
"It was always in the air, and they played a lot to (Dalton) Hadlock," he said. "Va Cha presented problems because he was so quick on the through balls."
Martin said his team did get a few break chances in the first half but not enough.
"Frazier's deep balls on the free kicks kept us on our heels in the first half," Martin said.
But the second half was a different story for the Patriots. Trailing 1-0 at the start of the second half, they began to take over the game with skilled passing, speed on the outside and by starting to win more 50-50 balls. As a result, Pinecrest was able to get several great looks at the goal in the half.
"I thought my team performed well and dominated the second half," Martin said. "We had a lot of quality opportunities."
Only one of those chances proved successful. With the ball just inside the front middle of the box, Patriot Dylan Cole forced a Vike defender to commit and then broke though, creating a two-on-one break. Cole slid the ball left to Kavanaugh in stride, who struck it just out of the reach of an outstretched Frazier to score and tie the game at 1-all with 24:45 left in the game.
Kavanaugh said the Pats did better going hard on 50-50 balls and playing as a team in the second half.
"We had some opportunities behind the defense," he said, "and we happened to capitalize on one."
Blake had noted before the game that he felt the Patriots' speed and high fitness level were their strongest points. Wylie tended to agree with his coach's assessment, as Wylie said his team began to slow down much more than the Pats did in the last 20 minutes.
"We were tired late," Wylie said. "They are very good upfront with Coby (Kavanaugh) and Tyler (Herbst) -- they have height and can jump. This is the fastest team we have faced. They are very aggressive despite their lack of size."
Blake was pleased with the outcome of the game.
"We played well -- we are starting to play the way we know we can," Blake said. "We are moving in the direction we want to go and should be playing our best near the end of the season when it matters most."
Martin felt it was a great night for soccer, a great atmosphere and a tremendous crowd, including the many SYSL players on hand.
"I don't think the game was filled with the type of skill and finesse we like to play with," said Martin, "but when you give up an early goal the game tends to become a bit less attractive. Union Pines played hard, though, and you have to give them credit."
Kavanaugh was less than satisfied with the game's final score.
"This hurts," he said. "You go into every game trying to win. They are a solid team that is on a streak right now, and I think they should have some success in the postseason. But this one really hurts."
Vike defender Kalo felt his team showed Pinecrest and the county that Viking soccer is for real.
"We had this game in the back of our minds all year," he said. "We were looking for a win, but a tie at Pinecrest is not that bad."
Martin said that the contrast in the styles of the two teams made for a classic match.
"Their game is to sit in and counter-attack and we want to possess the ball, build and go to the goal," Martin said. "In fact, I can't wait to play this game next year."
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