10/10/06 — Hunt shuts out Eastern Wayne

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Hunt shuts out Eastern Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 10, 2006 2:24 PM

Jörg Wagner has yet to discover a remedy to cure Eastern Wayne's inability to eliminate mistakes and finish goals this season.

Two early second-half miscues and a key defensive mistake against Wilson Hunt on Monday evening proved it might just be bad karma. An offsides infraction negated one goal. Hunt keeper Jonas Dewald denied the Warriors on another shot inside the penalty area about two minutes later.

"At that point, the pressure is on Hunt if those go in," said Wagner. "We've shown in the first half that we're able to maintain possession for large stretches of the game. Then, all of a sudden, instead of us having to chase the goal, we can sit on a one- or two-goal lead and knock the ball around.

"Then we let the opponent run themselves silly."

But Eastern Wayne turned into the chaser. Hunt notched two goals within a five-minute span shortly after the homestanding Warriors misfired on goal, and prevailed 2-0 in the pivotal Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference encounter at Little Big Horn.

Eastern Wayne (6-8-1) endured a home defeat for the second time in a five-day period and exited 3-4 against conference opposition. Hunt (9-5-2) climbed to 5-2 against all ECC foes and remained in the regular-season championship race.

"I'm disappointed, obviously, with the loss," said Wagner. "We need to improve on the finishing. I don't know if it was bad luck. Bad luck is one or two games, but it's been plaguing us all season.

"That's certainly something we're going to have to address."

Wagner's Warriors controlled the tempo and moved the ball effectively throughout the first half. Crisp passes kept Hunt in defensive mode and led to 11 shots on goal. Dewald saved two point-blank range attempts, while other shots either bounced wide of the post or sailed over the crossbar.

"They move the ball extremely well and we were chasing them a lot in the first half," said a gracious Hunt coach Scott Wofford. "We weren't really pressuring the ball or the man with the ball, and they were just eating through us. They could have scored three or four in the first half, but luckily they didn't."

The luck, however, was on Hunt's side.

Barely three minutes into the second half, Eastern Wayne freshman Eric Suncin gained possession on a through ball from the midfield. Suncin split the Warrior defense and easily beat Dewald one-on-one for the game's first goal.

The far-side official vigorously waved his flag to signal offsides and Hunt had dodged one bullet.

Less than two minutes later, Eastern Wayne had possession near the right post and Geordi Brown received a great feed from a teammate. Brown back-heeled a low drive toward goal and Dewald blocked the shot with his body.

"Jonas kept us in the game, for sure," said Wofford. "He's a great athlete and a great keeper. We weren't able to do it (tonight) it he wasn't back there in goal. He's amazing."

Hunt finally starting stepping toward some passes and finding small seams in the Warriors' defense as the second half progressed. Wofford's team attempted just eight shots on goal against keeper Vincent Hagedorn, who recorded six saves.

However, two shots found their mark.

Senior Zach Thomas lofted a floating ball over the top of Eastern Wayne's defense from about 30 yards out. Freshman Aaron White got behind the defense and headed the ball into goal for a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute.

The two had attempted the same play two minutes earlier.

"We've got some guys who can serve the ball very well from distance, and can make it float," said Wofford. "We've got guys who can finish out of the air. It's a strength that we have and it became a factor tonight."

Hunt notched its second goal in the 55th minute. Eastern Wayne's defense failed to clear a ball from the penalty area, and Hagedorn got caught outside the box. Jeffrey Reardon pressured the ball, got behind Hagedorn and headed it into goal.

"Concentrating for 80 minutes in the back has been our Achilles' heel where we've given up two-three goals a game -- always against quality opponents in defense of the guys," said Wagner. "But Hunt asked us two questions, and we didn't have the answer for that tonight."

Hunt completed its first-ever regular-season sweep of Eastern Wayne and leads the series 4-1 since joining the ECC one year ago. Wofford's Warriors posted their second consecutive shutout in conference play and have held an ECC opponent to one goal or less in seven outings this season.

It's regular-season title hopes dashed, Wagner said Eastern Wayne can play the remainder of its ECC schedule pressure-free.

"Once you get knocked out of the conference-championship race, regular season, I think a little bit of pressure goes off you," said Wagner. "Now we can go out and position ourselves for the playoffs. I always think we can beat anybody in the league and we've always been good enough (to do it).

"This year, we're good enough, too. With the pressure off, maybe the guys will respond even better than they did today."