CLAYTON — Garner came into Wednesday night’s Greater Neuse River 4A Conference soccer match with Clayton looking for some payback.
And thanks to a couple of spectacular long-range goals, the Trojans got just that.
Kody Kamphuis scored on a rocket from near the left sideline in the first half and Marco Perez did the same in the second, giving the Trojans a 2-0 victory and keeping them within striking distance of the conference lead.
Garner improved to 9-2-1, 5-2-1 in GNRC play with Wednesday’s result, while the Comets dropped to 7-6-2 and 3-4.
“I thought this was the best game we’ve played this season with 80 minutes of intensity,” said Garner coach Jon Sherwin, whose team had lost to the visiting Comets 3-2 at home on Sept. 10. “We won the ball and got after the ball. The guys were doing their job, and you see the difference it makes.
“The loss to Clayton was our first loss of the season, so it woke us up to the fact that we could lose. It was a tough game and we played tough. We have started slow and started hard, but tonight we played a solid 80 minutes.”
Garner goalie Kenneth Perkinson stopped six shots to earn his seventh shutout of the season, while Clayton’s Jackson Keener had nine saves.
“We definitely have an injury bug problem right now (including top scorer Jonny Bennett),” Clayton coach Tommy Gruhalla said. “I can’t disguise it any more. We had two players who were not playing and tonight we may have two more who won’t be playing, just from injuries. It’s starting to eat us up.
“We hustled – give the boys credit for laying it on the line tonight – but we’re not having any offense right now. We’ve got to score, and we’re not producing goals like we should.”
The teams had goose eggs on the scoreboard until the 35-minute mark, when Kamphuis took a pass from Thomas Dinka beyond the top of the box on the left side and blasted the ball over Keener and into the corner of the net.
“I saw Taylor (Stephens) on the back post,” Kamphuis said. “It was meant to be a cross. Every player miscues the ball sometimes, and this time I just miscued it right. When I saw it going in the air, I thought ‘That’s coming back and going in,’ and sure enough it did. It felt good. Any goal is a goal.”
And what turned out to be the clincher came in the 48th minute, when Trojan captain Perez scored with a shot on a similar trajectory.
“I got it from the defense, called for the ball, saw the upper right corner open and shot it in the upper 90,” Perez said. “Since I’m a midfielder I’ve scored outside the box before, but that one was fun.
“The first loss to them gave us a lot of inspiration. And we’ve learned a lot since then.”
Clayton suffered its third straight defeat.
“I think our team worked our tails off,” the Comets’ Ray Lines said. “It hurts not having Jonny. He’s an all-state player. We can get the ball up the field but we’re just not finishing. I thought we were intense. If we hadn’t been the score would have been a lot worse.”