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Prep soccer playoffs: Salisbury 4, Ashe County 2

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
A late goal by Ashe County didn’t alter the outcome, but it launched Salisbury’s soccer team on a postgame punishment run.
“Just an attention-getter,” coach Tom Sexton explained. “That’s only the second time in my career my kids have run after a soccer match, but they got that last goal because we were passive. Unforgivable.”
Sexton, who has Salisbury in the playoffs for the 18th time in his 20 seasons, isn’t a fan of passive.
Neither is Kenny Bonilla. He scored twice to lead the seventh-ranked Hornets to a 4-2 win over Ashe in the first round of the 2A playoffs at Ludwig Stadium on Tuesday. Salisbury has won its last 11.
“I think we played a tough match, in general,” Salisbury junior back David Simons said. “The refs let stuff go. We were pretty physical.”
Gerardo Sosa and Matt Cervantes scored late in the first half in an electrifying span of 50 seconds. Those goals made the difference.
“It sure looked like it was going to be 1-1 at the half,” Sexton said. “But we got the ball to people who can finish, and they attacked hard.”
Salisbury (21-1-1) squandered chances early. Bonilla bricked the equivalent of a basketball layup when the Hornets had a two-on-one breakout against the keeper.
“I missed an easy goal at the start, but the only thing to do was try to make up for it,” Bonilla said. “I kept getting shots. We’re supposed to take ’em if we’ve got ’em.”
Bonilla followed that advice, blasting in a long-range goal from the right side for a 1-0 lead with 15:35 left in the half. Ashe made it 1-1, however, when the Hornets failed to execute on a routine clear and Jose Zapata hammered a shot past SHS keeper Connor Miller.
“We cleared that ball right up the middle, and that’s Soccer 101,” Sexton said with a sigh. “We put Connor in a bad situation, and their kid rips a bazooka past him.”
Salisbury stayed on the offensive the first 30 minutes. Then Ashe took control for five minutes. With just 1:50 left in the half, momentum ricocheted back to the Hornets on a great individual effort by Sosa.
“He brought a ball down really tight, and then he beat three guys,” Sexton said. “He’s super-quick.”
Fifty seconds later, Bonilla set up Cervantes left of the goal, and he cashed in from point-blank range for a 3-1 halftime lead.
“We had a few mental lapses, and they got two goals quick,” Ashe coach Richard Gill said. “Salisbury has got some speed, and I’ll give them credit for that. Our touch was off on this field, but it was still pretty even. It wasn’t pretty soccer. There was a lot of kick and run after it.”Speedy sophomore Hanson “Smokey” Saryee’s defense was a key. Saryee marked Ashe striker Tyler Keagy and took him out of the equation.
“I kept him in front of me at all times because I knew if I let him out of my sight I’d have to chase after him,” Saryee said. “He got very frustrated.”
Sexton described the Hornets’ first half as “lethargic,” but they executed set plays better in the second half. Still, missed opportunities multiplied until Bonilla connected off a throw-in to make it 4-1 with 13:17 left to play. Bonilla worked into position, 10 yards out and in front of the goal. Then he drilled the shot before the defense could react.
“That shot was instinct,” Bonilla said.
The Hornets had it won at that point, but then they relaxed. Ashe got a goal on a flicked header over Connor with 2:37 remaining. That goal cued a lengthy postgame chat and a postgame run.
“Our grade was C-minus,” Sexton said. “At times we played well, but at times we were very unbalanced. We didn’t celebrate this one. Our level of play was down from the ferocity we had last week, and the guys know that.”

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