For a guy who scored Middle Creek soccer’s only regulation goal followed by the game-winner in overtime, Tyler Conrad seemed oddly expressionless.
He had just led the Mustangs to a 2-1 victory Monday over Jordan at the Falcons’ Barringer Field in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, but he never cracked a smile in the hand-shake line our during the otherwise excited post-game team huddle.
“I’m exhausted,” explained Conrad. “I just played the whole …. what was that … 100 minutes? It was fast play and closing down quick in the midfield. It was crazy.”
His math was as accurate as his left foot that tapped in two goals – the first six minutes into the second half and the decisive one with 39 seconds left in the first of two 10-minute overtime sessions. His goals lifted Middle Creek into the third round of the playoffs for only the second time in school history.
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Both times the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder was a solid oak tree planted in the middle above the box when received a cross that he knocked down with his thigh and kicked into the net.
“I didn’t think I was going to get (the second one),” Conrad said. “A guy went up for it and I lost the ball in the lights, but it came down on my thigh.”
Middle Creek’s defense did the rest, although Mustangs goalie Matt Wilder had to survive pressure early in the match. The Mustangs adjusted their formation to control the game’s tempo and limit Jordan’s shots.
The Falcons were staring at a shutout until Norwegian foreign exchange student Tobias Gangsto scored with 8:15 left in regulation.
The ball came free from a crowd as Gangsto approached on a full sprint and drilled a rocket right to left into the top corner of the net.
“It was two good teams and when you have two evenly matched teams it usually comes down to taking advantage of your chances,” Jordan coach Don Jones said. “We had a couple of looks in the first half we that didn’t convert on. Then, the two goals we let in were soft. That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year – being able to get good clearances on balls served into the box. We’ve been working on it, but it bit us tonight.”