Eastern Alamance’s men’s soccer team has won six straight matches heading into Wednesday night’s critical Mid-State Conference showdown at Fred Brady Stadium against league leader Northern Guilford. The Eagles have won eight out of nine matches over the past month, with their only setback being a 3-1 loss at Northern Guilford back on September 23. EAHS is looking to avenge that loss Wednesday night at home, while also tying the Nighthawks atop the league standings.
Eastern improved to 8-1 in conference play Monday night with a 9-0 triumph at home over Person. The Rockets, who are near the bottom of the Mid-State Conference standings, were unable to stay competitive with EAHS, who moved the ball well and dominated from the outset.
Eastern got two goals each from seniors Jackson Poteat and Carter Johnson, while junior Xzavier Smith also tallied two goals against the Rockets. Additional EAHS goals were scored by juniors Edgar Muchaha, Evan Mann, and Gustavo Salas. Senior Evan Morrison and freshman Madi Ceesay added two assists each for the Eagles in their winning effort against Person. Kevin Reyes put in a half of shutout work against the Rockets in goal in the first half, while Andrew Parker came on in the second half and continued to hold Person at bay. Between them, the two EAHS goalkeepers only had to save three shots, as Eastern’s defensive players consistently kept danger away.
Last week, the Eagles picked up a pair of key conference wins over McMichael - a 2-1 triumph in Mebane on October 7 - and a 2-0 victory at Northeast Guilford on October 9. Poteat and Salas scored the goals in the big win over the Phoenix, while Morrison and fellow senior Chris Guerrero tallied the goals in the win over the Rams. Reyes earned a shutout in goal against Northeast Guilford. Combined with the Person shutout, Reyes now has shutouts in back-to-back matches, and seven matches with one goal or less allowed.
The biggest victory in Eastern’s recent six-match winning streak was its 4-3 comeback win over Western Alamance back on October 2, in which the Eagles overcame a massive early hole to score four unanswered second half goals. That win propelled the Eagles into second place all by themselves in the Mid-State standings - a single game ahead of the Warriors.
“Going into the (Western) game, we knew that we would have to have a solid plan and stay committed to our responsibilities. Western is a quality team with some very good players and a very good coach. Also, a conference game with a rival school, you never know how these games will go,” EAHS head coach Kyle Shave said in a recent interview.
“In the first half, I thought we came out and showed good discipline, had a decent effort and a bunch of missed opportunities. We had a better start than most other games we have had and it was good to see. We had a run of about 14 minutes where we had some mental mistakes and they really cost us. More credit to Western and their players for taking advantage of it. At the end of the first half, I thought we did well to collect ourselves and keep the score where it was. Western had really gained the run of play and the last 10 minutes we were a bit unorganized but did well considering.”
“At halftime, we got together and talked about being in a pivotal place as a team,” Shave added. “We talked about going down this route too many times and there needed to be a change. The boys offered great feedback and touched on having more heart. We talked about being more aggressive and changing things to support that. The boys responded well.”
If the Eagles do go on to stake a claim for the conference regular season title and make a deep run in the state playoffs, they will inevitably look back to the Western Alamance game as the one that changed their entire season around.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of games and this one was remarkable. I haven’t seen a display of heart like in a long time. When you are down 3-0 it looks insurmountable, especially when you are halfway through the game with some fatigued legs,” Shave said. “I thought all the boys committed to putting a better version out on the field. I thought Henry Hohl, Braxton Miller, Evan Morrison, and Gustavo Salas were incredible and displayed the leadership we needed to make it to the end. These boys played the whole first half as well as the second half without a break. They challenged everything, they communicated, and they stayed positive picking each other up. They set the example for our approach and I believe the team followed.”
“Doc Engwall, Mac Culler, Alex Baptiste, Kevin Reyes and Chris Guerrero had a lot asked of them and they stepped up and delivered in a big way. I also thought the bench was fantastic as well, they were loud and positive, supportive all the way,” Shave added.
Now the Eagles face their biggest test thus far - a match that could move them to the top of the league standings, or one that will separate Northern Guilford as the clear top team in the Mid-State Conference.
Wednesday night is a real proving ground for this group of EAHS players. But coming off that huge win at Western Alamance, this team has been through the fire. They plan to be ready for whatever the Nighthawks throw at them.
“Going forward, I’m hopeful that the boys use the Western Alamance game as an example of what they can accomplish when they are supporting each other,” Shave said. “Adversity reveals character and when you look at this game, you see not just what this group of boys is capable of but who they are as people. I’m hopeful they can maintain the development. This is the finest group of boys I have had in my time of coaching and I’m grateful to be along for the ride.”