By David Rogers for HighCountrySports.net
LENOIR, N.C. — All but 1:20 had ticked off the game clock on Sept. 8, with West Caldwell holding a tenuous, 2-1 lead over Watauga men’s soccer. And that is when the game was called after a more than half-hour delay while school officials and EMS first responders tended to a seriously injured Warrior midfielder.
The player apparently went up for a contested header, shoulder to shoulder with an unidentified Watauga player, and collapsed immediately to the ground screaming in agony. Trainers and coaches got the player stabilized and holding still while waiting for paramedics and an ambulance to transport him to a hospital. As he was being moved to load onto a gurney, it was apparent that any movement was excruciatingly painful for the young man. The early reports on the sideline were that it was believed to be a neck-related injury but that has not been confirmed.
Play leading up to the moment of injury was fast-paced, marked by outstanding play on both sides of the ball. The Pioneers dominated possession, estimated at approximately 80 percent of play and keeping the ball while pressuring the West Caldwell defenders.
After a scoreless first half, within the first 10 minutes of the second half West Caldwell capitalized on a well-placed free kick from the left side, the ball crossing the face of the Watauga defended goal only to be punched into the net by a Warrior for the game’s first goal. Less than five minutes later, West Caldwell was able to push in a second goal as the ball caromed wildly off one player or another in front of the net.
Finally, with roughly 10 minutes to go in the game, the Pioneers’ forward line got in on the scoring action with Stryker Ward credited for the goal and Emmit Coffey getting the assist.
After the medics had cleared and teams shaken hands on the “no decision” result, Watauga head coach Josh Honeycutt said, “That was a first for me, the first time I witnessed a player being removed from the field in an ambulance. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with that player and his West Caldwell soccer family. It was a very unfortunate end to this game.”
Of his team’s play, Honeycutt added, “We were complacent coming out of halftime. I told the guys during the break that just because we are dominating possession and controlling it 70-80 percent of the time, it does not mean we are going to win the game. We have to find ways to get the ball into the net. We have to find ways to score goals. It seems like we are doing everything else except that, scoring. We need someone to step up, to be hungry for goals.”
Next up for Watauga are four more, highly competitive non conference matches, including home against Northwest Guilford (Sept. 12), on the road at Davidson Day (Sept. 15), home against Ardrey Kell (Sept. 19), and home vs. Cox Mill (Sept. 21). The Pioneers open Northwestern Conference play at South Caldwell on Sept. 26 and at Alexander Central on Sept. 28 before a first home conference match vs. Hibriten on Oct. 3.