St. Stephens beats Pioneers 2-1
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
St. Stephens didn't strike at Watauga's goal very often, but the Indians made the most of their chances.
Watauga possessed the ball much longer and took many more shots, but St. Stephens connected on two chances and claimed a 2-1 victory over the Pioneers Wednesday at Jack Groce Stadium.
Watauga's chances of winning the Northwestern Conference championship took a serious hit. The Pioneers slipped to 15-3-1 overall, but more importantly, 8-3-1 in the NWC. Watauga needs to sweep past Fred T. Foard on Monday and beat first-place Freedom on Oct. 23 to have a shot at winning the league title.
Freedom and Foard tied 3-3 Wednesday night, which keeps Watauga's slim chances at a tie for the league title alive. Freedom has to lose to Hickory on Monday and then to Watauga two days later for the Pioneers to win the NWC championship.
Freedom is 14-1-2 overall, 9-1-2 in the league.
Most likely, Watauga will have to settle for being the top 4-A team in the NWC and being the league's No. 1 seed. It was the second time this season St. Stephens (11-7-2, 6-5-1) beat the Pioneers.
"It would take an upset," Watauga coach Woody McKay said. "Somebody would have to beat Freedom and us beat Freedom. It's not mathematically impossible."
Watauga scored its lone goal when Logan Raichle knocked in a penalty kick from 13 yards out with 39.5 seconds left in the first half. Watauga's Tucker Chasteen was fouled inside the 18-yard box, which gave the Pioneers a chance at the goal.
It wasn't the only chance the Pioneers had at the St. Stephens goal. Watauga kept constant pressure on the Indians' defense, but could not slip another shot into the back of the St. Stephens net.
McKay cautioned before the game that St. Stephens was good at taking advantage of its goal-scoring opportunities and equally as good at keeping opponents away from its net.
"Even our one goal was a penalty kick," McKay said. "It wasn't in play action. I had hoped that on our field, we would be able to create some chances. But they were well organized. They didn't give us many chances and we didn't have that offensive spark that you have to have sometimes to make a rare goal."
St. Stephens got the game-winner with 17:41 left in the game on a header from Andrew Barton on a pass from Luke Bruce from about 40 yards from the goal. Eight minutes earlier, Chasteen hit a laser of a shot on a direct kick but the shot was saved.
St. Stephens scored its first goal when Andrew Barton took a Osvaldo Longinos-Cruz pass and slipped it past Watauga keeper Jake Chasteen.
"They do a good job of executing their game plan," McKay said. "They have their whole team except for one guy behind the ball and stop things up and we have trouble scoring and it works for them. They have enough skill to put their occasional chances away."
Chasteen had another shot that was saved with 9:30 left.