Midway through the first half in a Greater Neuse River Conference soccer clash against rival Clayton, Garner sophomore Trevor Loureiro came off the bench in just his fourth varsity game in his first year of playing the sport.
And he changed the game.
Loureiro scored a goal just six minutes after entering the contest and drew two penalty kicks that were cleaned up by teammate Junior Ayala to lead the Trojans to a key 3-1 victory.
The win moved Garner to 8-1 in the GNRC with a huge game against league leader Harnett Central this upcoming Monday.
Having just ever played soccer in the back yard with his brothers up until this season, Loureiro was instructed by Garner coach Jon Sherwin to utilize his advantages when taking the pitch.
Even Sherwin admits he is still learning how many advantages the sophomore possesses.
“It’s not just his speed but his shot that has been greatly placed. He’s a quick learner in terms of learning how to time his runs so he can stay onside, and he knows how to get the angles on the players,” Sherwin said. “It never ceases to amaze me that this is his first year playing soccer.”
Loureiro gave the visitors the lead when he ran onto the end of a long throw-in from Jeremy Jaquez and fired a volley off of his left foot back across his body to the right corner of the goal in the 25th minute of play.
“He told me to do what I do best: run and score,” Loureiro recalled of his instructions from Sherwin. “He said pass it in the corner of the net if I could and that’s what I did.”
After the Comets tied the game on a nifty Sean Kimble goal, Loureiro again used his speed to win possession of the ball in the penalty box where he was tripped.
Ayala went to the right on the penalty kick for a 2-1 halftime lead.
The same combination cemented the game late in the second half when Loureiro was again taken down in the Clayton box after racing onto the end of a diagonal pass.
Ayala went to the left this time, beating J.T. Palazzolo, to give Garner its sixth consecutive win.
“It was a typical Clayton-Garner game,” Clayton coach William Williams said. “Both teams fought hard. It’s just a tough way to lose when both teams play hard, both get a goal and then two PK’s come up like that. It’s kind of hard to overcome.”
The Comets came out with great energy and purpose in the second half trying to even the score. However, despite the push provided by Daniel Alioto, Kimble and Stephen Ruiz that led to plenty of possession in the attacking third, Clayton was unable to seriously test Garner goalkeeper Logan Torruella.
“I didn’t think that we had a lot of quality shots,” said Williams. “If you don’t put pressure on the keeper, it’s not going in if you’re not shooting. Sometimes, I think we wait for the perfect pass when sometimes you just got to be aggressive or selfish and take some shots.”
The only shot to get past Torruella was from the foot of Kimble late in the first half. The junior collected the long ball from Aaron Olmo inside the Garner penalty box, flicked it towards goal and then slammed the ball into the back of the net.
The Comets (5-6-2 overall, 4-4-1 GNRC) are still in the hunt for a top three finish in the conference and a state playoff berth, jockeying for position with East Wake, Knightdale and Southeast Raleigh.
As for the Trojans (11-5-1), a win at home against Harnett Central would even the season series and, more importantly, give Garner a share of first place in the final week of the regular season.
“I’m hoping that home field works for us,” Sherwin said. “It’s a must win game and I’m hoping the team is ready for it.”