Pioneers host Hibriten tonight
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Pioneers stayed in first place, but will have to share it with Freedom after the teams battled to a 1-1 tie at Catawba River Soccer Complex. Watauga holds a 12-1-1 overall record and a 5-1-1 mark in the NWC.
Watauga completed its first rotation through the NWC. The Pioneers will play five of their next seven NWC games at Jack Groce Stadium, which appeals to Watauga coach Woody McKay.
The two road games Watauga plays at are at Fred T. Foard and at Hickory.
"I think we won't be as tired," McKay said. "We're tied for first, but we're also in the best shape because five of our next seven at home. It's going to be tough to play Foard down there and we haven't beaten Hickory at Hickory since I've been here."
The first of those home games is tonight against Hibriten. The Pioneers beat the Panthers 2-0 on Sept. 9 in Lenoir. Logan Raichle and Cam Linville each scored a goal for Watauga.
Watauga had plenty of chances to beat Freedom (10-1-1, 5-1-1) on the road in Morganton, but some close shots in the second overtime just missed. The Pioneers had one shot hit one of the goalposts and had another chance when a pass by Justin Hall skip off the toe of Tucker Chasteen, whose touch went over the goal.
Watauga also played with a man advantage after a Freedom player received his second yellow card in the overtime period.
"In the second overtime, their guy got his second yellow card, they were down a man," McKay said. "They were down a man and we were dominating possession of the ball."
Watauga fell behind 1-0 following a Freedom goal midway through the first half. The Patriots converted a long throw-in that the Pioneers could not clear.
The Pioneers came back with a goal at the game's 58th minute when Chase Palm took a pass from Logan Raichle and scored from close range. Palm, a sophomore, was brought up to the varsity from the jayvee team recently.
"We scored in the second half, but we had a lot of chances in the overtime periods," McKay said.
Freedom kept its pressure on the Watauga defense with deep throw-ins that took away the Patriots' need to work the ball up the field.
"That's kind of all they do," McKay said. "It changes the game from a possession working the ball up the field to if you can throw the ball into the 18-yard box and can you defend the ball to the net 40 times a game."