BENSON — Cleveland had its 12-game winning streak on the soccer pitch ended Thursday night by the one opponent that probably knows the Rams best.
Caleb Hill and Cristian Santos each had a goal and an assist, leading West Johnston to a 3-2 non-conference victory over the Rams.
The win, which avenged West’s 1-0 road loss at Cleveland back on Sept. 13, improved the Greater Neuse River 4A member Wildcats to 6-9. Cleveland, which is 9-0 in the Eastern Carolina 3A, fell to 14-4.
“I think our guys executed what we want to do better this time,” West coach Ken Sweat said. “That’s the message I pounded into them this week. We’ve lost some games and I said ‘Guys, prove me wrong. Do what I ask you to do, and if we lose I’ll change things.’
“We hadn’t done it yet. But we were fortunate to win tonight. Cleveland had a lot of energy.”
Jacob Burton scored both goals for the Rams, who outshot the Wildcats 15-9.
“It was a tough game, just like the first time we played them,” Cleveland coach Fabri Bonilla said. “We had opportunities, but they just capitalized on them tonight better than we did. I think our defense and center mids had some tired legs tonight.”
West got the only goal of the first half in the 31st minute, with Hill scoring on a header and Santos on the assist.
“It’s a big rivalry,” Hill said. “We just did a better job with our possession in the second half and got some good shots on goal.”
The Wildcats then made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute on Austin Stewart’s blast from the left side with Hill on the assist.
Cleveland cut the lead to 2-1 five minutes later as Burton scored from in close on a Nolan Stelzner assist.
“We possessed the ball really well, but we just couldn’t finish,” said Burton, who played for West as a freshman. “We passed and moved and crossed and switched the field, but we just couldn’t get good shots off.”
But Santos put the Rams ahead by two again in the 67th minute on a Javier Mendoza assist. Burton struck back less than 20 seconds later, but the Rams were unable to gain the draw.
“I got a good chance on that goal and didn’t miss,” Santos said. “This is a pretty big rivalry. I’ve been playing against those guys since middle school.”
Cody Taylor stopped nine shots and Jose Salgado blocked four for the winners, while Gio Solis had six saves for Cleveland.