Prep soccer: Shelby 3, Salisbury 0
By Bret Strelow
SHELBY ó Sam Garner accepted the runner-up plaque and clapped his hands above his head to acknowledge the respectful applause coming from Shelby supporters.
Salisbury’s soccer team made it back to the state semifinals but stalled on the starting line.
The Hornets’ remarkable playoff run ended Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to Shelby in the 2A Western final at George Blanton Memorial Stadium.
The Golden Lions, who scored in the 28th minute and added an insurance goal in the 65th, will face Cardinal Gibbons for the state title Saturday morning in Raleigh. Salisbury, which won three grueling matches this postseason, fell in the state semifinals for the fourth time in the last 12 years.
“This group was very different than any other group,” veteran coach Tom Sexton said. “Our group played together extremely well the whole season, and we really hit a crescendo when it came to the playoffs.
“We played three fantastic playoff matches, and I think all of us are just tired of having the door slammed in the Western final. We wanted it bad, but it’s like getting an engine fired up for four drag races in a row. That last one, I didn’t know if we had it all in order to get it done tonight because we had put so much effort into the previous three.”
The Hornets (17-5-1) started the playoffs with a 1-0 overtime win against Forest Hills, then prevailed 1-0 at South Iredell. They hit the road again for a Western semifinal match against Hibriten and claimed a 2-0 victory.
Salisbury allowed its first playoff goal when Shelby’s Kevin Petty scored off a rebound with 12:25 left in the first half.
“We knew it’d be difficult to score,” Shelby coach David Steeves said. “We were just hoping to get some chances and hoping to get a little luck. We found a little luck, then created a little luck of our own.”
Senior keeper Frankie Cardelle misjudged a lengthy throw-in by Turner Almond and was out of position when Petty gained possession in a crowd near the right post. He booted the ball into the nearby net with his left foot.
Petty broke free down the left flank after chasing down a throw-in from Branson Reid in the second half. Petty passed right to a streaking Almond, who slipped a shot past a helpless Cardelle.
The Hornets changed keepers in order to utilize Cardelle’s offensive talent, and Almond scored a late goal with Salisbury pressing forward during its desperate comeback attempt.
“Once we hit South Iredell, we hit our stride,” Garner said. “Then we beat Hibriten, and it was just an amazing game. We kept together and made the big plays. Tonight, Shelby just played wonderful.
“The shutout thing was nice, but it couldn’t last forever.”
The Golden Lions (19-2-2) controlled play from the outset, and Sexton cited their ability to win a significant number of 50-50 balls.
Salisbury’s best scoring chance came six minutes after Petty’s goal. A cross from Will Mason found B.J. Woods, who chipped a shot toward keeper Rob Binion from about 20 yards away. The ball hit the crossbar, popped high into the air and landed atop the netting.
The Hornets, who forfeited their first two matches, were shut out on the field for the third time this season.
“They were playing to their highest potential against Hibriten and to their highest potential against South Iredell,” Sexton said. “We had to have that kind of effort against these guys, and we didn’t get that same pinnacle effort. The opposition always has something to do with that, and they’re very good.”
The loss ended the careers of 12 seniors: Cardelle, Garner, Mason, Daman Bowman, Alex Hunter, Dustin Presnell, Oscar Bonilla, Randy Almeida, Miles Jordan, Michael Doran, Hunter Fisher and Ryne Maddox.
The Hornets last reached the state semifinals in 2001, and they hadn’t advanced beyond the third round since 2004. Members of Salisbury’s senior class were eighth-graders then.
“Twelve seniors, we were all the best of friends,” Cardelle said. “We played together for a long time, and we got outplayed for once. It’s tough.”