Watauga boys' soccer team knocks off Hickory
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Ranked opponents may want to think twice about playing Watauga this year.
The Pioneers made it two straight against ranked opponents by knocking off Hickory 3-1 at Jack Groce Stadium Wednesday night. Watauga scored all of its goals in the second half against the Red Tornadoes, who went into the game ranked No. 3 in 3-A by the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.
Just two days earlier, the Pioneers beat Fred T. Foard in Newton. Foard went into that game ranked No. 7 in 3-A soccer. Watauga plays NWC rival Hibriten, ranked 11th in the 3-A poll, on Sept. 26.
It was the first time Watauga’s beaten Hickory since the Red Tornadoes joined the Northwestern Conference. It’s the first time Hickory has lost a NWC match since 2009 when the Red Tornadoes went 11-1 in conference games, 26-2 overall.
“I’ve never beaten Hickory in anything I’ve done except for football,” said Watauga forward Alex Parsons, who also is the kicker for the football team. “It sure does feel good to win, finally.”
Watauga played Hickory in two close games last year, but fell 1-0 at Hickory and 2-0 in Boone. Hickory finished 22-2-2 overall, 12-0-0 in the NWC last season.
“We played them pretty even last year, but this year we have a pretty good team,” Watauga keeper Jake Chasteen said. “We’ve got a solid back line, a solid midfield and a solid offense and we pulled it off in the second half.”
Hickory slipped to 9-1-0 overall, 0-1-0 in the NWC. Watauga improved to 8-1-1, 2-0-0. It looked like the Red Tornadoes would keep their conference winning streak intact when they claimed a 1-0 lead with a goal late in the first half against the Pioneers.
“They are the best team we’ve seen,” Pioneers coach Woody McKay. “I thought the first half was pretty even. They finished a shot right in front of the goal that the defense should have cleared that Jake had no chance at.”
The Pioneers struck back by scoring two goals within a minute of each other. Alex Parsons stepped in front of a Hickory clearing pass and ripped a shot that found the back of the Hickory net with 25 minutes left in the game.
Watauga was just getting started. One minute later, Collin Kreis-Potgieter took a pass from Logan Raichle and gave the Pioneers a 2-1 lead with 24 minutes left.
“In the game of soccer, the most dangerous five minutes are after a goal,” Parsons said. “We really took advantage of that and we really put it away. Collin did a great job on the finish on that one.”
McKay agreed that Parson’s goal caught Hickory off guard. He thought that Watauga gained some momentum, which proved valuable in scoring the second goal.
“Alex’s shot was a long shot, which was just a blast,” McKay said. “When it went in, they felt the momentum shift. They were like ‘Oh, now we’re in trouble,’ and they’re not used to having someone come from behind. With a minute later, we were able to sneak one in.”
Although the offense bore its share of the responsibility for holding on to the lead, Watauga’s defense had to make sure Hickory could not get close enough to score a tying goal. Chasteen played an aggressive style of goal keeping by often going after balls coming at him before the Red Tornadoes could get off a good shot.
Hickory made one final, chaotic attempt to score a goal in the game’s final minute. After gaining control of the ball, the Red Tornadoes sent everybody they had on the field — including their goalkeeper — on the attack.
Watauga was able to clear the ball to Parsons, who was waiting behind the Hickory offense. Parsons dribbled the ball nearly three-quarters of the length of the field before calmly scoring a goal on an open net with 18.4 seconds left.
“It was intense,” Chasteen said. “They got their goalie up in our 18 and then Collin cleared a ball out to Alex and Alex put it in for our last point.”
The Red Tornadoes’ final push did not surprise McKay, who said he would have most likely used a similar strategy.
“That last goal, they did what I would have done too, which was push up toward the goal,” McKay said.
Parsons had a few different things going on during his rush up the field. He wanted to work some clock, but he also did not want to take a wild shot and miss the goal.
He also had to outrun two Hickory players who were trying to beat him back to the goal.
“I knew the keeper was out and I was trying to dribble the entire field,” Parsons said. “I wanted to kill as much time as possible. We weren’t going to let them come back at all. We had to put the final nail in the coffin.”
“I wanted to make sure I put that one away. That was probably one of the most important goals in my life,” Parsons added.
Watauga ventures back out of the NWC on Sept. 17 when the Pioneers play at West Forsyth. The Pioneers return to NWC action two days later to play at Alexander Central.