By David Rogers. MORGANTON, N.C. — If ever a high school men’s soccer team heeded a head coach’s pre-game exultations, there was none better than Oct. 24 at the Catawba River Soccer Complex. Northwestern Conference leader Watauga dominated host Freedom, 6-1.
Just moments before the Pioneers took the field, head coach Josh Honeycutt reminded his players that it was Freedom’s “Senior Night.”
“They are winless in conference play,” said Honeycutt. “They have nothing to play for except pride and they would like nothing better than to upset the league leader, Watauga, on their Senior Night. We have a target on our backs. So go out there and put this game away early and keep your feet on the accelerator.”
And they did just that. Barely a minute had gone by when senior striker Emmit Coffey pushed the ball in front of a Patriot defender near midfield and dribbled at a full sprint toward the goal with the defender in hot pursuit. Just inside the penalty box, the Patriot backline player made an ungainly tackle attempt that sent Coffey sprawling — but a penalty kick was Coffey’s just reward. Senior midfielder Luke Hunter sent the PK scooting past the goalkeeper and into the net, Watauga taking an early, 1-0 lead.
The Pioneers dominated possession from the start and disrupted the Patriots’ opportunities at every turn. Only another couple of minutes had gone by when junior midfielder Micah Duvall dribbled down the left sideline, edged toward the goal, and delivered a crossing kick that was pounded into the upper reaches of the net by Stryker Ward on one-touch contact with the ball.
From there, the rout was on, punctuated by more first half goals by Coffey and Nathan Bishop, and second half exclamation points into the net by Bishop and Andrew Hill.
Afterward, Honeycutt observed, “We did our jobs from the beginning. We controlled possession and pressed on defense. I couldn’t be prouder of this team’s performance tonight.”
Considering that the Catawba River Soccer Complex proved an awkward venue for a league match on Freedom’s Senior Night, the game between Freedom and Watauga was mishap free. Adjacent fields were host to pee-wee flag football games and other youth soccer contests, with whistles galore and easily audible. Somehow, the Patriots and the Pioneers were able to ignore the unrelated whistles, especially considering that a Freedom drum corps, talented as they were, pounded the sounds of percussion throughout the match, just a few feet from the field and between the two grandstands. The combination of random whistles that could have potentially interrupted play and the beat-beat-beat, rata-tat-tat of the drums made for a surreal playing environment for a league match.
Next up for Watauga (10-8-1 overall, 8-1 Northwestern Conference) is a home finale to the regular season against Ashe County (9-9-3, 1-6-2), before the beginning of the state playoffs. That Senior Night match is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, with varsity kickoff slated for 6 p.m. In the previous meeting of the regional rivals, Watauga edged the Huskies on Oct. 10, 3-2.