FUQUAY-VARINA — Dean Rutherford and Johnny Stehlik have been playing together long enough to risk a friendly wager. The Fuquay-Varina strikers’ pact is this: the one with fewer goals at the end of the year has to buy the rest of the team Dairy Queen.
They showed Wednesday that they’re not afraid to give the other a leg up in order to win, as Rutherford assisted to Stehlik for the first goal in a 4-2 win against rival Holly Springs.
The goal tied the two for the team and Southwest Wake Athletic Conference lead, but Rutherford scored three more times.
Rutherford’s three tallies all came after a teammate was sent off in the 31st minute for making contact with the referee. Sometimes a team will win a game after going down a man, but rarely will it go on a 3-0 run over 49 minutes.
“We’ve known we have a great attack, but what I saw tonight was the whole team come together,” Fuquay coach Todd Dowler said. “It was disappointing, but then again maybe if that doesn’t happen we don’t win this game... It gave them some inspiration, as if they needed any more playing Holly Springs.”
Stehlik and Rutherford call their deal “rack stats.” They each have racked up their statistics in different ways.
Stehlik is a left-footer and is better in the air. Rutherford, a right-footer, holds the ball at the top of the formation before making direct runs through the defense.
“We work good up top,” Stehlik said. “We’ve been playing together about three years. The chemistry is a lot better than last year.”
It was a big win for the Bengals, ranked sixth in the News & Observer rankings. Fuquay-Varina entered the night tied with No. 7 Holly Springs and No. 12 Athens Drive for third in the SWAC.
The SWAC has just three automatic bids for this year’s postseason, and those are likely the only three teams that will host a playoff game. The others will be wild-cards and be on the road.
The Bengals (9-4-2, 5-3) went on top in the fourth minute, with Stehlik heading in a cross from Rutherford.
The Golden Hawks (7-5-2, 4-4) were quick to answer.
Aaron Latigue’s wonder strike, a 25-foot bender hit with the outside part of his right foot, leveled the game in the 12th minute.
A handball called in the box in the 19th minute forced a Holly Springs penalty. Justin Gonzalez put away the PK to go up 2-1.
The Fuquay comeback effort became complicated when the Bengals went a man down.
But Rutherford and the Bengals had other plans.
He got free on a breakaway in the 52nd minute to even the score. Two minutes later, while attacking the right flank, he sent in a curling shot that knicked the crossbar as it landed in the left side netting.
Rutherford’s hat trick came after teammate Holden Bryant played him a ball in the box in the 80th minute.
It was Bryant’s second assist of the game. Rutherford now has 16 goals on the year, Stehlik has 13.
“We’re scoring about the same amount of goals, so it’s working pretty good,” Rutherford said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps