Prep soccer playoffs -- Spartans end Warriors' season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 11, 2004 1:56 PM
SMITHFIELD -- Eastern Wayne did all the right things defensively Wednesday evening against offensive juggernaut Smithfield-Selma.
Jin Lee marked Victor Blanco well on the wing and denied the freshman forward any chance of touching balls on the sideline. Chris Brown defended Eusebio Montoya, an all-state player last season, throughout the evening and kept the Spartans' top goal scorer from finding the back of the net.
Senior Rob Cagle played steady on the backline and cleared numerous balls upfield which prevented Smithfield-Selma from capitalizing in its quick-strike offense.
What happened offensively, you ask?
The Warriors surrendered possession deep inside their territory too often in the first half and the Spartans seized the chance for an early goal in the fourth minute. Eastern Wayne collected a second-half equalizer, but Smithfield-Selma answered minutes later and eventually prevailed 2-1.
The victory denied Eastern Wayne (15-5) a trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional title game for the first time on the Class 3-A level. The Warriors appeared in the 4-A regional final in 2000, falling 1-0 in a penalty-kick shootout at Leesville Road.
Smithfield-Selma (23-3-1) opposes either White Oak or West Carteret in the regional championship Saturday.
"Smithfield did a stellar job of still bringing enough guys forward, not relying on Montoya like they'd like to, but they're good enough technically on the ball," veteran Warriors coach Jorg Wagner said. "They knock the ball around and present problems when you give it up. They're not necessarily a quick-counter team, but they like to establish possession.
"They like to put you in a difficult situation and they did that tonight."
An early turnover outside the 18-yard box put the Spartans in business early. They worked the ball into the penalty area, only to see it cleared by a pair of Eastern Wayne defenders.
The ball rolled back out to junior midfielder Adam Carroll, who lofted a floater toward the goal. Warrior keeper Stephen Stackhouse eased off his line, but kept a watchful eye on the corners. However, he couldn't get a glove on the gentle shot to prevent it from hitting the net.
"You don't want to give a kid a ball like that, even if it is a 25-yard or 30-yard shot," Wagner said. "As a keeper, you're taught to come out and tighten up the angles on the goal and that's what Scuba does when he sees a shot coming.
"When a kid lays it over him and chips it in, that's tough luck."
Eastern Wayne, which is 7-4 in road playoff games since 1999, settled down and stabilized its defense. The Warriors continued to lose possession and give the Spartans attacks on goal. Stackhouse shook off the early goal and finished the half with five saves.
Wagner encouraged his team at halftime to distribute the ball better, switch fields and push the ball to open spaces. Smithfield-Selma defended well and appeared on the way to its third consecutive shutout in the postseason.
Until the 63rd minute.
Dustin Smith gained control of the ball near midfield and dribbled into Spartan territory. Smith avoided a tackle and flicked the ball to Andrew Corley, who also eluded a tackle as he moved toward the right side.
Senior Bobby Gambella made a marvelous run down the right sideline and Corley fired a one-touch pass into open space. Gambella blew by the final defender, ran onto the ball and tucked it into the lower left corner for the 1-1 tie.
"That goal came out of the flow of play," Wagner said.
Energized from the goal, the Warriors applied some pressure and attempted to rattle the Spartans. Stackhouse maintained a strong presence in goal and denied point-blank range shots from four different players as the clock headed into the 66th minute.
Sophomore midfielder Javier Solis attempted a shot from the left side and the ball deflected toward Joseph Jeffreys. The Spartans' third-leading goal scorer fired the game-winning goal toward the corner.
"It was a brilliant-taken goal ... outside off the right foot, curling into the right back of the net," Wagner said. "There is a bit to be said for that. The kid can really finish. No doubt."
The Warriors never mounted a serious threat from that point and finished the 80-minute battle with just four shots on goal. Stackhouse, one of seven seniors on the team, concluded the night with 14 saves.
Gambella, Cagle, Stephen Gourley, David Hook, Joe Gossett and Nickolai Rosinski played in their final contest for Eastern Wayne. The senior class accounted for four playoff victories, including back-to-back trips to the eastern semifinals. They also helped the Warriors achieve a program-best 10 victories in Eastern Carolina Conference play this fall.
"The credit definitely goes to the seniors (with) great leadership and excellence in the classroom," Wagner said. "They've been fantastic to work with."
2004 N.C. High School
Athletic Association Class 3-A
Playoffs -- East semifinals
(at Smithfield-Selma HS)
Eastern Wayne 0 1 -- 1
Smithfield-Selma 1 1 -- 2
SSS -- Adam Carroll (unassisted), 3:27
EW -- Bobby Gambella (Andrew Corley assist), 62:44
SSS -- Joseph Jeffreys (unassisted), 66:08
E. Wayne SSS
4 Shots on goal 27
4 Corner kicks 3
17 Fouls 23
0 Offsides 1
Saves -- Eastern Wayne -- Stackhouse 14. Smithfield-Selma -- Urbina 1.
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