It’s admittedly early on in the season, but it’s tough to ignore the signs that seem to point to this possibly being a special season for the Smithfield-Selma boys soccer team.
After avenging its season-opening loss to county rival Clayton earlier in the week with a three-goal victory, the Spartans went on the road and bested another Greater Neuse River 4A Conference opponent, West Johnston, in an impressive 4-2 win Thursday night.
Smithfield-Selma (2-1) fell behind early when the Wildcats’ Christian Jacobs received a through ball from Austin Stephens and converted the opportunity into an easy goal a mere two minutes and 14 seconds into the contest.
Less than four minutes later, however, Alfredo Martinez tied the game for the Spartans on a header. Johnny Ventura then gave Smithfield-Selma its first lead in the 25th minute after blocking an attempted West Johnston clearance before lofting the ball into an open net from 20 yards out.
A long-range goal from Nilton Perez to begin the second half momentarily stunned the Wildcats and Samuel Jimenez-Chavez put the game out of reach midway through the half as a senior-laden Smithfield-Selma team was clicking on all cylinders.
“We just work off of each other and we know, if we’re making a run, we just talk and work off of each other,” said the Spartans’ Martinez.
For West Johnston, the game was a tale of missed opportunities. For much of the match, both teams took turns getting the ball into dangerous positions. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they were unable to cash in on some of their best chances.
“It could have gone either way,” West Johnston coach Luke Waddell said. “The three or four that we missed from inside the six(-yard box), should have been put away.
“I really think that when we play them again, that it could really go our way.”
A halftime talking point led to the Spartans’ third goal of the night just 29 seconds into the second half. SSS coach Austin Coates directed his team to take some shots from distance and Perez obliged when he collected the ball just past the midfield circle and fired a shot that looped over everyone and into the back of the net. The surprise goal made the score 3-1 and was a tough blow for West Johnston.
Three who mattered
Chandler Lasater, Smithfield-Selma: The junior goalkeeper had 12 saves on the night including about half-a-dozen from close range, keeping the Spartans in the game early on.
Nilton Perez, Smithfield-Selma: The senior midfielder had a goal and two assists on the night for the Spartans and also displayed some superior dribbling skills in maneuvering well in tight spaces all game long.
Austin Stephens, West Johnston: the junior striker was dangerous for the entire game and set up the contest’s opening goal with a nice diagonal pass to Jacobs.
They said it
“This is a special group of young men; it’s a very talented group of young men,” Coates said. “They know how to read each other really well and that’s something that you can’t teach, it’s just something they have in their blood and it’s fun to watch.”
The Wildcats’ Brendan Boyd’s rocket of a shot on a half-volley from about 40 yards from goal that found the upper-90 to bring West Johnston to within 4-2 with just over minute to play in the game.
By the Numbers
6-foot-3: Height of the Spartans’ Alfredo Martinez, which came in handy on the senior’s first-half goal. Martinez rose above the crowd on Nilton Perez’s corner kick and easily headed it home from six yards out.
10: Goals scored by the Spartans in their back-to-back defeats over 4A opponents Clayton and West Johnston
13: Number of seniors on the Spartans’ squad.
14: Shots West directed on target.
Luis Partida, Smithfield-Selma: Partida won just about every 50-50 ball he went for and covered a lot of ground to help the visitors control the middle of the pitch.