The East Wake boys soccer team scored twice in the first 11 minutes, then held off rival Knightdale in the second half to close out the regular season with a 3-2 win Wednesday.
In a game filled with turnovers at the midfield and scrappiness between the two teams, the visiting Warriors’ 3-1 halftime lead proved insurmountable for the Knights. Both East Wake coach Michael Howes and Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio described the match as a physical one, with the two sides combining for 25 fouls.
“We felt like we needed to win this game because they took the first game from us ... and because it was the final game of the season,” Howes said. “I thought it would be good to have a nice ending note.”
East Wake’s Johnny Odette opened the scoring in the fifth minute after a weak back pass to the goaltender gave him a one-on-one breakaway.
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Six minutes later, Layne Gairrett buried a rising header off a corner kick to double the lead. Through the opening 18 minutes of the match, the Warriors (6-9-3, 6-7-1 in the Greater Neuse River 4A) led 2-0 on the scoreboard and 8-0 in shots.
“Their first goal was a gift,” Vaglio said. “They didn’t really do anything to earn that goal. The first 15 minutes ... we were flat, we weren’t awake, and I thought that kind of hurt us.”
Knightdale (7-14-0, 6-8-0) benefited from a fortunate deflection to pull back within a goal in the 21st minute. Senior striker VLyle Walker made a strong run down the right sideline, then cut aggressively into the six-yard box; his point-blank shot was stopped by East Wake goalkeeper Jason Dean, but the rebound bounced off a defender for an own goal.
The lead was again stretched to two goals when a throw-in from East Wake’s Jamonte Smith took an unexpected deflection, bounced once and found the net behind surprised Knightdale keeper Dalton Hagemann in the 37th minute.
In the second half, Knightdale added an additional player to both the midfield and forward units to aid their comeback attempt. Abraham Carrazana tapped in a putback after a driving Walker shot to pull the Knights back into contention in the 56th minute, but his team failed to produce any more shots on the goal in the final 20 minutes.
The Warriors out-shot the Knights 13-12 for the match, including 6-4 in shots on goal. Gairrett led East Wake with four shots, followed by Vicente Gallardo and Landon Cantin with three each. Walker single-handedly accounted for half of Knightdale’s attempts. Both teams’ leading shot-takers received yellow cards during the second half.
“I thought the game was evenly matched,” said Vaglio. “They legitimately put in one goal off their offense and we put in two off of our offense, so if we cleaned up our mistakes it’s a different ballgame.”
East Wake surged into fourth place in the GNRC’s final regular-season standings with the win, while Knightdale – which lost three of its last four after appearing poised for a playoff berth two weeks ago – dropped into a tie for fifth.
“Overall, the boys stepped up to the challenge,” said Howes. “Both teams ... controlled the ball real well. It was a very physical game at times but I’m very proud of the boys coming out on top.”