Stymied by some rather fine play by Rolesville goalkeeper Jordan Payne in the first half, East Wake broke through for three second-half goals to rally for a 3-2 victory over the visiting Rams in a Greater Neuse River 4A Conference boys soccer match on Wednesday.
Garrett Johnson scored on a pair of penalty kicks, the second of those with 10 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the second half to break a 2-all tie as East Wake (8-6-2, 4-2-2 GNRC) enhanced its N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff hopes while also staying within reasonable distance of conference-leading Knightdale (11-4-3, 8-1-1).
Rolesville took a 2-1 lead when Primo Santiago got behind the East Wake defense after taking a pass from Hans Bierer and fired a booming shot from just inside the left side of the box past Warriors goalie Migel Valdivia with 24:10 remaining in the second half.
East Wake responded with immediate pressure deep in Rolesville territory, and it paid off several minutes later when the Rams were called for a handball in the box, leading to Johnson’s first penalty-kick chance. He converted easily on a shot just inside the right post with 17:07 to go to knot the score at 2.
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Johnson got his second PK chance when teammate Jonathan Tudan was dragged down in the box with possession of the ball nearly seven minutes later. This time, Johnson booted the shot inside the left post just barely out of reach of a diving Payne for the game-winner.
“I was just trying to kick it hard inside the corner, and when you do that it’s pretty hard to stop,” Johnson said of the penalty kicks. “This was real big, we’re fourth in the conference. We feel like we need to win out the rest of the way.”
Rolesville (2-15-2, 2-7-1) had one last chance to tie in the waning moments, but Santiago missed wide right on a shot from about 15 yards out off a scramble.
East Wake controlled much of the play in the first half, producing a number of good opportunities only to be denied by Payne.
The senior made about a half-dozen impressive saves in the opening 15 minutes alone, including a leaping tap of an East Wake header from close range over the crossbar to keep the match scoreless.
Rolesville took a 1-0 lead when Mubaraq Usman scored on a one-on-one with Valdivia with 1:40 left in the first half. East Wake finally got on the board when Eduardo Lopez scored off an assist from Vicente Gallardo with 29:26 remaining in the second half.
Rolesville appeared to regain momentum when Santiago’s goal gave the Rams a 2-1 lead, but East Wake nearly answered only a couple of minutes later when Gallardo fired just wide right from close range. Though the Warriors failed to score at that time, they had Rolesville on its heels defensively the rest of the way.
THEY SAID IT
“There were a number of scoring chances we had in the first half, we were creating a lot of chances,” said East Wake coach Jonathan Hasbrouck. “In the second half, I told them hopefully we could capitalize on those chances because this was a big game for us.”
THREE TO KNOW
Vicente Gallardo, East Wake: The Warriors’ top offensive player, Gallardo made his return after missing four games with a knee injury. He made his presence felt throughout, garnering about a half-dozen scoring opportunities and setting up East Wake’s first goal.
Garrett Johnson, East Wake: Odds of making penalty kicks are rather high, but considering the time remaining and the significance of both his opportunities, Johnson came through in the clutch.
Jordan Payne, Rolesville: The senior goalie kept his team in the game, particularly in the first half when what could have been at least a two-goal East Wake lead was instead a Rolesville lead going into the second half.
BY THE NUMBERS
6: Number of one-goal losses by Rolesville, which didn’t look like a two-win team for much of Wednesday’s match.
“It’s been very frustrating,” said Rolesville coach James Overman. “Early in the season, we played a very tough out-of-conference schedule, but once we got into conference play there has only been one game with a large margin. Otherwise, we have been in every game. We just haven’t been able to take that one step to win those games.”
East Wake hosts Southeast Raleigh on Thursday, while Rolesville hosts Harnett Central on Monday.