North Johnston’s Chase Davis scored just seconds into Saturday night’s Class 2A playoff game against North Lenoir, setting the tone for himself and his team.
Davis finished with three goals, his first hat trick of the season, and the high-scoring Panthers rolled to a 6-2 victory over visiting North Lenoir in the second round of the playoffs.
Davis, a senior forward with speed and quick feet, took a pass from Ian Walston near midfield just after the opening whistle, split the North Lenoir defense and was off on a breakaway. He beat the Hawks keeper, slicing the ball into the left corner of the net.
“There is a lot of pressure on you (on a breakaway),” Davis said. “But you just have to go back to the fundamentals and think back of the net.”
That’s where the ball ended up, a jump start for North Johnston, which roared to a 5-0 halftime lead. The Panthers finished with six goals after scoring seven in a first-round victory over Graham.
“We definitely wanted to get to a quick start and keep the pressure up, because we knew they would play the entire 80 minutes,” North Johnston coach Jody Edwards said. “We knew we needed to score early and often because (North Lenoir) is very athletic and they don’t give up.”
North Johnston kept the pressure on after Davis’ lightning-quick strike, but narrowly missed on several opportunities.
The Panthers (21-4-1), the second seed from the Eastern Plains 2A Conference and the 10th seed in the Eastern 2A bracket, found the net again twice in the 20th minute.
Junior Carlos Aquilar scored the first of his two goals, heading the ball into the net on an assist from Hugo Ramirez. Twenty seconds later Davis got his second goal on another assist from Walston, this time from just in front of the net.
That pushed the margin to 3-0 and put the Hawks in a deep hole.
“After that, they were able to settle in and play their possession game and keep us on the ropes,” North Lenoir coach Donell Garris said.
Aquilar scored again in the 23rd minute on an assist from Walston, who finished with four assists. Tyler Jackson made it 5-0 in the 39th minute on an assist from Davis.
“We can score quickly,” said Edwards, in his third season as Panthers head coach. “We have a lot of scorers on the field. Last year we were a good defensive team but we only had one or two scorers.
“This year’s team has seven or eight potential scorers. No telling who is going to score or who will be taking the shot.”
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with Davis finding the back of the net on an assist from Walston. This time, however, it took just a little longer – the goal coming 3:30 into the second half to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
North Lenoir (13-9) didn’t quit, getting a pair of second-half goals.
Two minutes after Davis’ third goal, North Lenoir got on the board when Jackson Sullivan’s corner kick went off the outstretched hands of the North Johnston keeper.
Braxton Greene scored on an assist from Sullivan in the 66th minute to make it 6-2 but the Hawks could get no closer.
North Johnston will play at second-seeded Washington, the Eastern Plains Conference champion, in the third round. The Pam Pack won both regular-season meetings with North Johnston.
“We know them well,” Edwards said. “We are very excited about traveling to Washington and playing them. We’ll definitely be ready.”