11/01/05 — Rivals on a collision course

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Rivals on a collision course

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 1, 2005 1:59 PM

Rivals sure seem to have a way of finding each other when the postseason rolls around.

It certainly seems that way among a couple of area boys soccer teams as the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs begin this week.

Rosewood (8-10), the No. 2 seed from the Class 1-A Carolina/Tar Roanoke Conference, will host county and conference nemesis Spring Creek, a Wild Card selection, in the first round on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Branch Pope Field. The Eagles and Gators (5-5-1) split a pair of regular season matchups, both winning on their home fields.

"It's something we weren't expecting. We played twice, so we both know what each team likes to do," Rosewood coach Daniel Mitchell said of the contest with Spring Creek.

In the past, the NCHSAA has hesitated to match conference foes up in the first round. This year, they aren't shying away from these opening-round contests -- trying to keep as many teams as close to home due to travel considerations.

Eastern Wayne (10-7) isn't matching up against a Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference foe in the first round when it travels to Morehead City to face West Carteret, but the Patriots are certainly a familiar opponent. The Warriors and West Carteret, formerly of the ECC, have staged numerous battles, some physical, through the last several years with conference titles and playoff positions on the line.

Eastern Wayne coach Jörg Wagner is expecting another tough test from the Patriots (7-6-1), who finished second among the 3-A teams in the split Coastal 3-A/4-A Conference.

"We've often split with them, them winning here and us winning down there. We've always done better down there," Wagner said. "It will be a difficult game I'm sure. I was surprised they were second place in their conference instead of first.

"I think it will be a good game .. an old rivalry renewed. We can't get rid of them."

Charles B. Aycock, the ECC regular season and tournament champions, won't face a rival in the first round. In fact, the Golden Falcons (13-6) won't face anyone in the first round. For the first time in school history, Aycock received a first-round bye in the playoffs -- adding to the list of "firsts" it has accomplished in 2005.

The Golden Falcons, who captured their first ECC title, square off with the winner of Greenville D.H. Conley (11-9) and Jacksonville (10-7-1) in the second round on Saturday in Pikeville. Aycock would host Eastern Wayne in the third round if both advance.

"This is all a plus for us. It's the first time we've had a bye in the first round," Aycock coach Kevin Adkins said. "Maybe we can catch a few teams sleeping in the playoffs and keep moving on."

Junior Garrett Davis (25 goals, 16 assists) and freshman Alex Rodriguez (22 goals, 17 assists) have accounted for 60 percent of the Falcons' goals. Juniors Rich Holder (seven goals, two assists) and Carson Sasser (six goals, 11 assists) have also contributed for Aycock, which is outscoring its opposition 78-36 overall with three shutouts.

Adkins has been pleased with the defense's ability to gel down the stretch.

"We had a hard time figuring out the defense at first, but senior sweeper Bennett (Jeffreys) has been a general back there and kept everybody together," Adkins said. "We've used a combination of Jorge Delgado, Justin Hankins, Jeff Mullins, Tyler Mills and Alex Toler in the other positions with Jake Bunn and Jared Kennedy in goal.

"We've given up one goal here and there, but they've came through and played well."

Eastern Wayne, a team riddled with injuries since the start of the season, has seen seniors Eric Bourgeois (18 goals, two assists) and Andrew Corley (14 goals, six assists) step up to lead the team in scoring. The Warriors outscored their opponents 60-38 overall and 40-14 in the ECC. Eastern Wayne is 17-8 overall in the playoffs under Wagner and is making its ninth-straight trip to the postseason.

The Spring Creek-Rosewood contest matches up two teams that have been statistically balanced for most of the season. Rosewood junior Goss Kendall leads his team with 12 goals, while Jose Ramirez has paced the Gators with 10 goals.

Senior Trey Kriger and sophomore Selving Sabillon have eight goals each for the Eagles, who have won three-of-four heading into the playoffs.

Ramirez and Velazquez (seven goals) are two-of-nine Spring Creek players who have scored at least one goal during the regular season. Leonardo Morrero is the team's assist leader.

The season had already started when first-year Gators' coach Gordon Crocker, a 27-year teacher and coach for various sports at Rosewood Middle and High School, got started with the program. Crocker is pleased with the teams ability to advance to the playoffs without the chance to play many non-conference contests.

"This is a new team for me, and we got started late. We had to cancel a lot of our non-conference games, and the guys have been working real hard," he said. "They are looking forward to the playoffs. They are excited about the opportunity."

In the 2-A ranks, the Eastern Plains Conference's No. 2 seed, Greene Central, hosts Franklinton (6-10-2) in the first round. The Rams are 11-5-1 overall heading into the postseason. North Lenoir (9-9-1), which finished third in the EPC, travels to Southern Vance (10-6) in the first round.