West Johnston overcame fatigue as well as a 2-1 deficit Thursday night, rallying for three second-half goals in a 4-2 triumph over county rival Cleveland.
Coming off a 6-1 defeat to Greater Neuse River 4A Conference rival Garner 24 hours earlier, the Wildcats found themselves on the verge of coughing up a second consecutive 1-0 halftime lead.
“We had tired legs from last night,” said Wildcats coach John Asmusssen. “We ran into a real good Garner squad. They took it to us in the second half. We were up 1-0 in the first half, then in the second half, we fell behind 2-1, then 3-1 and it snowballed from there.
“I think we lost our legs in the first half tonight, and they (Rams) took advantage of it.”
The Rams did just that in the final 20 minutes of the half, and kept that control for the first 20 minutes of the second.
Cleveland used that 40-minute period in outshooting the Wildcats 14-2, but was not rewarded for their efforts until the Garrett Lee finished on a corner kick on an assist by Luis Melena.
“We were in control of the game,” said Rams coach Nick Guhn. “We had our opportunities, but we just weren’t able to put them (Wildcats) away and it kept them in the game. Then they got a few little bursts that worked for them.
“Its (finishing) is probably our greatest weakness right now. We work on it everyday. We have everything else down — getting organized offensively, working on covering free kicks.”
The goal gave the Rams a huge shot of momentum in searching for their first win of the season after dropping their first five contests.
But it was not to be, as the Wildcats began picking up their game, with a few offensive thrusts that finally paid off.
The turning point came with 59 minutes elapsed in the match when Tyler McClymonds ripped a direct kick into the top of the net over the outstretched hands of Cleveland keeper Ethan Fellows.
Fueled by that goal, the Wildcats turned up the offensive pressure on the Rams, scoring the go-ahead goal 70 minutes into the match, on a booming shot by Seth Bondurant in the middle of the box.
Bondurant’s goal came when Luis Molina deposited the ball at his feet in the middle of the Cleveland defenders.
“Both of those goals were big,” Asmussen said. “Because they came on set pieces. They were both booming shots and they both gave us a big lift.”
The Wildcats added an insurance goal with four minutes to play when Ludwig Ravnlokke deposited a pass from Austin Stephens into the net.
Asmusssen said the Wildcats came together when they lost the services of starting goalie Luis Ceballos, who left the game with an apparent muscle pull after West fell behind 2-1.
Ceballos had been the victim of a bad break on the Rams’ second goal of the evening, when a corner kick by Tony Costine landed in front of him, and instead of bouncing, skidded into the goal.
Constine’s goal came 52 minutes into the match, and only six after the Rams had equalized matters with a corner kick goal that saw Garrett Lee finish after a dish by Costine.