After getting off to an impressive 2-0 start with a pair of lopsided early wins over Person and Northeast Guilford, the Eastern Alamance men’s soccer team faced its toughest early test of the season back on February 2, when they hosted perennial Mid-State Conference powerhouse Northern Guilford at Fred Brady Stadium.
Although the Eagles were spotless defensively in their opening two matches, they were unable to slow down Northern Guilford’s offensive progression, as Nighthawks Connor Hawkins and Jonthomas Buckley scored goals as NGHS defeated Eastern, 2-0. The Eagles gave up goals to Northern Guilford in each half, and were unable to find the nets themselves against Northern’s stiff resistance. The Nighthawks got off to a stellar 7-1 start to its season this winter, allowing just four goals along the way. Their only setback was a 2-1 loss to Western Alamance on February 16.
Eastern rebounded from the setback to Northern Guilford with a pair of convincing home victories over Rockingham and Morehead. The Eagles dominated Rockingham by a 4-0 score on February 3 - the night after the loss to Northern - and followed it up the next week with a dominant 13-2 blowout of Morehead. The Eagles got off to a 1-0 halftime advantage against Rockingham, and then blew the Cougars out in the second half with three unanswered goals.
Senior Gustavo Salas scored twice for EAHS in the victory over Rockingham, while sophomores Sebastian Ayala and Jamil Navarro also found the net in the win. Seniors Xzavier Smith and Doc Engwall provided assists for the Eagles. Senior Kevin Reyes and sophomore Andrew Parker shared the duties in the net for EAHS, combining for the team’s third shutout of the year as Eastern improved to 3-1 overall. Both Eagles goalkeepers made four saves of Rockingham shot attempts.
The Eagles exploded offensively against Morehead, with Smith and Salas each recording hat tricks with three goals apiece. Senior Randle Torres scored twice for the victorious Eagles, while juniors Griffin Auditori and Chase Baptiste, as well as sophomores Madi Ceesay, Jamil Navarro, and Lamin Denis, all scored one goal each. EAHS was generous sharing the ball around against the overmatched Panthers, with senior Alex Baptiste and Doc Engwall contributing two assists each, and teammates Salas, Denis, and senior Jackson Faircloth each picking up additional assists in the win.
After improving to 4-1 with the win over Morehead, the Eagles hosted Western Alamance for a critical Mid-State Conference showdown on February 10. After a scoreless first half, Eastern got a pair of goals from Salas and Smith in the second half, with Engwall contributing an assist yet again. But Western Alamance also recorded two second half goals to force overtime. EAHS goalkeeper Kevin Reyes did a stellar job in the net for the Eagles, saving 13 Warriors shots to keep Eastern in the match.
The two teams played through two overtime periods without an additional score, and the match ended in a 2-2 tie. It was an important result for the Eagles, given the fact that Western Alamance defeated Northern Guilford. The tie is the only blemish thus far on Western Alamance’s record.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Eagles have not played any matches. Eastern had a pair of matches scheduled February 15 at McMichael and at home February 17 against Northeast Guilford, but those two matches wound up not getting played. EAHS had another match scheduled on the road February 22 at Person, but that match was also not played.
Eastern has a critical revenge opportunity scheduled for Wednesday night - a road match at Northern Guilford. The Eagles will have been two weeks out of playing any matches if that particular match winds up being played.
The Eagles are scheduled to open up March with three straight road matches against Rockingham, Morehead, and Western Alamance. The March 8 showdown with the Warriors is particularly notable, as a win in that match could give the Eagles a shot at claiming at least a piece of the Mid-State Conference regular season title - particularly if Eastern could knock off Northern Guilford in the rematch between the Eagles and Nighthawks. EAHS is set to close out the regular season Wednesday, March 10 with a Senior Night match against McMichael in Mebane.