Prep soccer: Carson clinches SPC
CHINA GROVE — Hold those phone calls, SPC boys soccer fans. We have a winner.
It’s the 2013 Carson squad that belongs to history now. The Cougars secured their first conference championship Thursday night with a 4-1 victory against visiting Northwest Cabarrus.
“First time ever,” senior defender Garrett Owens said after Carson (15-4, 13-3 SPC) rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to win its sixth straight match and capture the hotly contested league race. “That’s the most important thing.”
Carson — which won 10 of its last 11 regular-season games — will wheel out the dessert cart and likely open the 3A state playoffs at home next Wednesday. A deep post-season run is certainly possible.
“If we continue to play like we have the past two weeks, the sky’s the limit,” said coach Justin Buckwalter. “The talent is there.”
The Cougars were paced by sophomore forward Brandon Flores, who contributed three goals — his 33rd, 34th and 35th of the season — and a late-game assist.
“He knows how to make runs,” said NWC coach Harald von Klahr, like Buckwalter a Catawba graduate. “And they know how to find him.”
Northwest (12-6-2, 9-5-2) stunned the Carson crowd when it opened the scoring on its first shot just 1:25 into the match. Following a long throw-in by Chase Brandner, the ball ping-ponged around the doorstep until Jacob Hamilton tapped it past CHS keeper Grayson Owens.
“We could have taken that negatively, but we didn’t,” said midfielder Sam Cooley. “We decided to keep our focus and not let it hurt us.”
“It was an unlucky touch in the middle,” added Garrett Owens, Grayson’s older brother. “We failed to clear it out. After that we got our minds straight and knew what we needed to do.”
They accomplished that by feeding the ball to Flores, the sniper who is sneaky quick the way a sneeze is quick. He answered with his first goal a minute later — on Carson’s first shot — when he steered a header past NWC netminder Noah Malina.
“We weren’t going to let that first goal affect us,” Flores said. “The second one was important because it got the intensity back up. It got us fired up.”
Carson went ahead 2-1 at the 3:18 mark when Ranuel Vasquez sent a long clearing pass down the left sideline that Flores gathered and fired past Malina. Then came the heartbreaker for Northwest — when Flores received a well-placed through pass from Ricky Maldonado, faked the keeper and scored with just 16.3 seconds remaining in the half.
“That goal was huge,” Buckwalter said. “Brandon has an uncanny abilty to finish.”
Freshman Khalid Myers scored Carson’s final goal when he converted a rebound with 7:26 to play. Von Klahr was gracious in defeat. “They earned (the championship),” he said. “They beat the teams they had to beat. In the end, they the most consistent team and showed the most abilty to win.”