By David Rogers for HighCountrySports.net
BOONE, N.C. — Even though Watauga’s Sept. 12 men’s soccer match will be recorded as a 1-0, non-conference loss to Northwest Guilford, the Pioneers left Jack Groce Stadium knowing they had battled toe to toe with one of the better high school teams in western North Carolina.
The Vikings of Northwest Guilford (5-2-1) are ranked at No. 45 out of the more than 400 North Carolina varsity programs and No. 10 in the NCHSAA 4A West half of the state, according to MaxPreps. Even before Monday night’s match with the Pioneers, the Greensboro-based Vikings sported a national ranking of No. 243 out of the 2,298 varsity programs monitored by MaxPreps. Now 2-5 on the still young season with the West Caldwell outcome still pending, Watauga was ranked No. 233, statewide, among all programs in North Carolina before Monday’s loss, receiving credit for a strong strength of schedule in non-conference play.
“I am proud of this team tonight,” said Watauga head coach Josh Honeycutt after the match. “Nothing to be embarrassed about at all. This was a very good opponent and our guys battled to the end. In fact, their one goal may just as well have been more our fault than their good play, although they took advantage.”
For most of the match the Vikings appeared equally as skilled as Watauga and maybe a half-step quicker to the ball. In the last 10 minutes, however, the Pioneers seemed to gain the upper hand, playing a good part of the remaining time in NW Guilford’s defending half. Sharply played combinations in Watauga’s attacking third of the field didn’t yield any goals for the host Pioneers, but underlined the young Pioneers’ fitness and resilience as they mounted scoring threats to the final buzzer.
Strong defensive play by the Vikings were able to turn away most of the scoring threats organized by the Pioneers, who managed only two shots on goal, one by Micah Duvall and another by Curtis Sevensky. Goalkeeper Kyle Painter recorded six saves on the night.
Next up for the Pioneers is quick trip down the mountain on Sept. 13, to West Caldwell, to play the final 1 minute, 20 seconds that remained when a Warrior player was seriously injured last week and the game was called with the Pioneers threatening to close its 2-1 deficit. The game was delayed for well over a half hour while an ambulance was called to transport the injured athlete to a nearby hospital.
Asked for an update before the Sept. 12 match, Honeycutt reported that the injuries were not as severe as first feared, the athlete suffering a concussion and neck strain.
“No one has satisfactorily explained yet why the game was called with just a minute and a half remaining,” said Honeycutt. “The rules provide for only two reasons for a game to be called, and those are dangerous weather conditions or an unruly crowd. So play should have been resumed to finish out the match. Our guys work hard and deserve the opportunity to finish the game, so we will go down for that final 1:20.”
On Sept. 15, the Pioneers will receive another strong test on the road, at Davidson Day. The 7-2 Patriots are ranked No. 202 nationally and No. 35 statewide. The Pioneers return home for two more strong non-conference tests next week, vs. Ardrey Kell (Charlotte, 3-3-1) on Sept. 19 and Cox Mill (Concord, 6-0-3) on Wednesday, Sept. 21.