The Ashe County High School Huskies soccer team (13-10-1) lost its final game before the state playoffs on Monday, Oct. 29, in a neutral site 3-1 loss to the Wilkes Central Eagles (15-4-3). Played on Watauga High School’s football field in Boone, the game was scheduled after the Huskies and Eagles finished the season with identical 11-3 in-conference records, setting up a tie-breaker game to determine playoff seeding.
The wind was blowing hard from start to finish, combining with the slick turf for the perfect conditions for the ball to do what it wants. After the Huskies’ win over North Wilkes on Oct. 25, head coach Sam Piercy said that the turf would be a solid advantage for the Eagles.
“They’re a passing team, and the turf will make it easier for them,” Piercy said. “It’ll make it tougher for us, but if we play smart we can make it not be a factor.”
Only six minutes into the game, Huskies senior forward Alec Roland took a shot from range. It appeared that the wind picked up the ball as it slowly fell towards the goalkeeper. Justin Lopez sprinted in at lighting speed from the right side to head the ball into the net before the keeper could grab it.
With the Huskies up 1-0, they kept putting pressure on the Eagles’ defense, but couldn’t convert their chances to goals. The Eagles responded by putting two headers over the crossbar, but couldn’t find consistent movement in the attacking third.
Antonia Garcia finally broke through in the 35th minute, with a shot from close range. Two minutes later, Christian Ramos was called on a foul just outside of the Huskies’ box, leading to a free kick that just barely didn’t give the Eagles the lead.
Three minutes into the second half, Bryan Francis broke the tie with a ricocheted ball he put into the net, making it 2-1. After taking the lead, the Eagles kept piling on the pressure, trying to get the game-clinching goal.
The Huskies succumbed to it in the 52nd minute, when Jason Durr brought an Eagle forward down in the box, setting the Eagles up for a potentially game-finishing penalty. Brandon Lopez converted from the spot, giving the Eagles the 3-1 victory.
The loss set up the Huskies with an away playoff game against the Shelby Golden Lions (17-3-2) on Nov. 3. Despite a goal from Roland, the Huskies lost that game 6-1, ending their season.