East-West Boys Soccer: Bonilla, Miller help West win
By Ryan Bisesi
GREENSBORO — Salisbury’s Connor Miller and Kenny Bonilla have driven Chad Hench crazy for four years in the Central Carolina Conference. Now that they’ve graduated, Hench finally got a chance to enjoy their talents.
Hench, Central Davidson’s coach, guided the West All-Stars to a 3-2 victory in the East-West soccer game at the UNC-Greensboro’s Soccer Stadium and utilized all of his rival players’ talents during it.
“I told them it’s going to be good to be on the field and win with you,” Hench said. “I don’t think I’ve ever beaten them.”
You may have thought Hench was crazy putting Miller in the field for Bonilla early in the first half. Miller, who played all of a minute last season out of goal, filled in nicely with the West team battling injuries and having two players bow out the day of the game.
The West broke through with two goals in the second half to break a 1-1 tie at halftime. Asheville Roberson’s Troy Hemphill was MVP scoring two goals.
“Everything’s for fun,” Bonilla said. “You get to hang out with these guys from other schools and just become friends. There’s no pressure on you”
The West was two players short already coming into the game when Nathaniel Goodwin was injured in the first half. That called for some improvisation, like Miller replacing his teammate at forward.
“We’d been joking about it the past couple of days,” said Miller, an incoming freshman at Old Dominion. “Coach said we only had 14 players total so if needed, we’d be subbed in to help players get a rest.”
“I was a little surprised when I saw him,” Bonilla said. “I guess if I go out for anyone, it should be my own teammate.”
The West outshot the East 14-8, putting 10 shots up in the second half. West also totaled 13 fouls and coaxed a yellow card from East.
The Hornet duo were solid in their usual avenues, too. Bonilla was a firecracker with his physical play, earning a foul in the opening minute and at one point, jawed with East defender Seth Poole. Bonilla collided with East goalie Holland Hammond late in the first half, hurting his right ankle and reluctantly coming out for the rest of the half.
“I didn’t know anybody was behind me,” Bonilla said. “I was going to play the ball back to the guy in front of me and he came in to grab it and my ankle got caught under him. I was trying to stay in because I knew it was just a knot.”
Miller came back to his conventional spot in net in the second half and used all of his 6-foot-5 frame to make a leaping save in the final minutes, pushing a shot from Mike Paye over the crossbar to secure the win. Salisbury fans would have likened the save to the one he made against Carrboro in overtime of the state championship match.
“He had a bunch of space and I had time to tip it and I had just enough time to back up and tip it a little bit,” Miller said.
Adrian Gonzales gave East the first goal 8:15 into action on an unassisted goal from the left side. Hemphill scored his first on a hard shot that snuck by Hammond to tie it six minutes later.
Shelby’s Jerry Zeller scored two minutes into the second half as West claimed its first lead but Logan McGlynn tied it at two with a shot that found its way past Miller, who came back to N.C. for the game after moving to Virginia in June to start training with ODU teammates.
“The goal they scored on me kind of surprised me,” Miller said. “I think it came through someone’s legs. I just wasn’t ready for it.”
Hemphill scored again in the 60th minute on a liner from the near side to put West up for keeps.
Bonilla, a Catawba signee coming off a 23-goal, 16-assist campaign, created several scoring chances. He hit the post in the second half and was generally pesky on the attack.
“Usually I try to get at least a shot off,” Bonilla said. “It was unlucky and hit the post.”
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