Athens Drive played two different teams in its final week of nonconference boys soccer play, but there was one common opponent – lightning.
On Thursday, the final tune-up before Southwest Wake Athletic Conference play came with a 1-0 win against Leesville Road, ended by a strike just 38 seconds into the second half. It came a day after the Jaguars played in a truncated 0-0 tie at Riverside High in Durham.
Under N.C. High School Athletic Association rules, the game goes down as a final so long as it reaches the second half. Add it up, and the Jaguars completed two games in about 90 minutes.
Leesville (3-2), despite the 40-and-a-half-minute loss, may have gotten exactly what it needed in the contest as it prepares for Cap Eight Conference play.
“This was a good wake-up call for us,” Leesville coach Paul Dinkenor said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do defensively. I do not feel like we played as well.”
Leesville had posted three straight shutouts after a season-opening 2-1 loss to Apex.
“A few wins against teams who might not be as strong might give you a false sense of security,” Dinkenor said.
Dinkenor, of five state championship teams in boys and girls soccer, is at a different part of his coaching career than Athens Drive’s Uriah Bentick, a 27-year-old who plays for the Carolina RailHawks by day.
Bentick was drawn to the Jaguars (4-1-1) when he saw a posting in the locker room for the job vacancy. He had done the same double-duty last year in Wilmington, playing for the Hammerheads and coaching Coastal Christian.
“I just enjoy the community atmosphere of sports in terms of traveling to games with the JV team or the volleyball team,” Bentick said. “It’s been fun just to be a part of the whole organization.”
Bentick was pleased to see one of his orchestrated set pieces lead to the game’s only goal.
In the 35th minute, Grant Finkbeiner took a free kick that reached the far post where Benjamin Williams headed it across the goal mouth to Quinn Garrett.
Garrett tapped in the goal, his first of the season.
“I thought it was going out, and Ben had a diving header and flicked it in out of nowhere. I was lucky I was right there and tapped it in,” Garrett said.
“It was a good play. It’s good to see it come fruition in the game,” Bentick said.
The final was 1-0, but as Dinkenor put it, the first half could’ve ended 5-3.
Athens Drive forced Leesville’s back line to block four shots in the game’s first 20 minutes, two of which would have been goals. The Jaguars’ Grant Nelson also hit the right post.
Leesville had counterattack opportunities with speedy forwards Alyddin Darar, Luca Menozzi and Drew Walcyzk. A free kick from Isiah Rowland hit the crossbar.
“I felt we had plenty of opportunities to (score). We had a lot of breakaways. The ball just didn’t sit or we took a little bit too long to get the shot off,” Dinkenor said. “We just need to adjust to the turbulence of conference play. You never get a night off in our conference as I’m sure it is in (Athens Drive’s) conference.”