Warriors slip past Patriots in playoffs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 3, 2005 2:05 PM
MOREHEAD CITY -- Opponents expect the Eastern Wayne men's soccer team to organize attacks well and play a ball-possession game. The scheme is designed to wear down the opposition and provide uncontested shots on goal.
Those same opponents should add a footnote in their scouting report -- don't get caught napping on set pieces.
West Carteret did.
Senior Sean Worrell converted a direct kick in stoppage time to cap a miraculous -- and gut-wrenching -- 5-4 victory over the Patriots on Wednesday evening in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoffs. The Warriors (11-6-2) continue play Saturday at NEW Athletic 6 champion Wilson Fike. Game time is slated for 6 p.m.
"It was a very strange game," said Eastern Wayne coach Jörg Wagner.
Described as "crazy" by Worrell, the contest between the former Eastern Carolina Conference foes also tested the Warriors' patience.
West Carteret (7-7-1) tallied three consecutive goals in the first eight minutes of the game. Drew Weeks scored twice within a three-minute span. Chad Compton followed a misplayed corner kick which deflected off keeper Vince Hagedorn and into goal.
"We didn't communicate and we didn't play our game," said Warrior senior Chris Brown. "We were nervous. Normally we build from the back and work up, but we were playing long balls."
The Patriots disrupted Eastern Wayne's attack by stepping into open spaces and winning loose balls. The inability to push forward and pressure in transition drew the ire of Wagner.
It frustrated the Warriors.
"We started out as sluggish as I've never seen us before," said Wagner said.
Eastern Wayne settled down and stayed within the framework of its offensive plan. Although it still turned the ball over at times, Wagner's team effectively used the width of the field and forced the Patriots to chase the ball.
The movement created passing lanes and the Warriors' first goal in the 35th minute. Senior Andrew Corley picked up a loose ball near midfield and dribbled past the remaining Patriot defender toward goal. Nutz came off his line and attempted a slide tackle. Corley flicked a soft shot over him into goal.
One minute later, junior Dustin Smith got loose for a breakaway and Nutz -- again -- came off his line. Realizing his mistake, Nutz dove just as Smith ripped a goal-scoring shot inside the post.
"We were able to put it into a reachable goal (at halftime)," said Wagner.
The game's zany theme continued into the second half.
Eastern Wayne profited from an "own" goal in the 45th minute. The Patriots' Jon Avery shielded Erik Rivera from running onto a pass from Worrell just inside the 18-yard box. The ball deflected off Avery's right foot and rolled into the net for the 3-3 tie.
Nearly three minutes later, Rivera got loose for a one-on-one inside the penalty area and drew a hard foul. The midfield official awarded the Warriors a penalty kick, but West keeper Stephen Nutz made a great right-footed cleat save on Eric Bourgeois' attempt.
Rivera clanged a shot off the near post in the 60th minute and Nutz smartly covered a corner kick in the 66th minute to preserve the 3-3 tie.
"We had a couple of chances," said Wagner.
Despite those disappointing misses, Rivera and Corley continued to pressure the Patriots' defensive backline. The duo hooked up in the 67th minute when Corley received a Rivera pass just outside the 18.
Corley alertly avoided the offsides trap and easily tucked the ball into the net for a 4-3 lead.
"When we move the ball intelligently and do a little bit of individual work, that will make the other team chase ... which they can't do forever," said Wagner. "If we don't make mistakes and keep the ball moving, it's difficult to contain us especially with two good forwards like Rivera and Corley.
"Corley broke his scoring slump and that's very important for his confidence."
But the drama wasn't over.
With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, the Patriots drew a penalty kick on a foul that appeared to be outside the box. Hagedorn made a cleat save on Vincent Fluellen's PK attempt, but Fluellen gathered the deflection and scored for the 4-4 tie.
The teams traded possessions for a couple of minutes until Bourgeois drew a hard foul outside the Patriots' penalty box. Worrell placed the ball down and as soon as the official stepped away, he curled a shot around the two-man wall and into goal.
"Coach said 'hurry up and quick kick it,'" said Worrell. "I didn't have much time, so I wanted to get it in there. When I struck it, I thought 'oh gosh, it's going to go wide.'"
The ball slipped between the near post and a diving Nutz, who got caught off guard by the play.
"It was like Aycock all over again," said Brown. "But we persevered, played hard and played with heart. I haven't seen a playoff game this intense that we've been in my four years that I've been here.
"It's great to have that feeling back."
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