The North Johnston boys soccer team has put together one of its best starts to a season in recent memory and the Panthers continued that trend Tuesday night with a 5-1 win over Rosewood.
Ian Walston netted a pair of goals, while Tyler Jackson added one goal and one assist to help move North Johnston to 6-1 on the season.
Carlos Aguilar and Connor Cook also found the back of the net for a Panthers team who has no shortage of players who can light up the scoreboard.
“The difference in this team from last year is that we’ve got scorers,” North coach Jody Edwards said. “I’ve got nine or ten guys on the field that can score.”
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Although Cook’s goal, which came off of a corner kick, and Walston’s first of the evening propelled the Panthers to a 2-0 halftime lead, senior goalkeeper Max Kirby came up big when he needed to when the game was in the balance.
Kirby came up with three saves in the game’s opening minutes highlighted by a point-blank stop against Rosewood’s Geovanni Abril who found himself free 12 yards from goal off of a long throw-in.
Then, with North Johnston up still up by the 2-0 line three minutes into the second half, Kirby was forced to dive to his left and barely got his paws on a low line drive from the Eagles’ Daniel Alberto that was destined for the lower corner.
Edwards said one possible reason for the team’s quick start dates back to a preseason trip to the coast in which the Panthers bested First Flight, the state 2A runner-ups from a year ago, on its home field 2-1.
“That gave us a world of confidence that we could play with anybody in the state,” said Edwards. “I scheduled tough non-conference games to see where we are. In order to be the best, you’ve got to play the best and then you’ve got to beat the best.”
Three who mattered
Ian Walston, North Johnston: The junior striker scored a goal in each half for the Panthers but also played a role in the game’s first goal when his dangerous corner kick was eventually redirected into the net.
Tyler Jackson, North Johnston: The defensive standout set up Connor Cook to open the scoring in the game’s 27th minute and headed in a goal of his own midway through the second half. Jackson’s more important role of the night, however, was to man-mark the Eagles’ Ethan Chapin and held him in check for much of the game.
Daniel Alberto, Rosewood: The sophomore midfielder was the Eagles’ most dangerous player going forward. He assisted on Rosewood’s only goal of the game on a nice pass to Chapin and pressed North Johnston goalkeeper Max Kirby into making a tough diving save early in the second half.
They said it
“One of the keys to our good start this season is our midfield,” said North Johnston senior co-captain Marcos Orozco. “We’re doing better than last year; we are touching the ball more and we distribute way more than we did last year.”
Walston’s half volley after dispossessing a Rosewood defender. After deflecting the ball up in the air, Walston timed his strike perfectly as the ball was falling back to the ground and curved it just inside the near post from 30 yards out. The goal was a pivotal one as well as it gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
By the Numbers
6: Saves that Kirby came up with for North Johnston in net.
9: Panthers who have tallied a goal in the opening weeks of the season.
14: Goals Walston has now collected on the season through just seven games.
Adolfo Rosales, North Johnston: Rosales was a calming force in the midfield for North Johnston, often responsible for advancing the ball out wide into dangerous positions on the flanks. Rosales did a good job tacking back too to nullify the Eagles’ attack.