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South Rowan soccer overpowers Salisbury, 4-1

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Earlier this season, Russ Fisher sensed he had a pretty good boys soccer team at South Rowan. It’s beginning to look like he was right.

The second-year coach was chest-pumping proud after a 4-1 Raiders’ victory Monday night at Ludwig Stadium, where they beat Salisbury for the first time in 19 years, won their fourth straight match and completed a four-game sweep of county opponents.

“I don’t want to put the whammy on my team, but they work really hard,” Fisher said, moments after South (9-5, 5-4) gave the rest of the Central Carolina Conference a reason to worry. “It’s nothing that I do. It’s always what the boys do. When they put their mind, heart and soul out here, you get results like we got tonight.”

They got this one with surprising ease. South senior Dalton Baxter — a rakish forward with a nose for finishing — scored three times in the opening 13 minutes, eliminating much of the pre-match drama. Teammate Eber Tapia added a second-half goal, his 14th in nine games this season, and sturdy goalkeeper Parker Anderson recorded 13 difference-making saves.

“We thought this game was going to be close,” said Anderson, a senior who repelled every Salisbury charge but one — a blast by Brayan Avilez in the waning moments. “I put it on the team. It was the team, as a whole, that gave Dalton the chances he had. And after about three years, this team is finally finding its niche.”

Even sagacious Salisbury coach Matt Parrish had to give Baxter and the Raiders some well-deserved acclaim.

“I thought going into the season South Rowan would be top of the league,” he said. “They have Eber Tapia, who is probably the best tactical and technical offensive player in our conference. They have a humongous senior class, something like 11 seniors. And they’ve been playing heavy minutes together for many years. So in that regard, what happened here is not surprising. What is surprising is that we completely laid an egg.”

Baxter began scrambling the Hornets’ defense in the fifth minute. He settled under a long, high feed from defender Daniel Trejo and steered a six-foot header past Salisbury keeper Wade Robins for the game’s first goal.

“That first header really got our team going,” Dalton crowed afterward. “I’m actually known for doing that. Every header I can get to, I go for. It’s like instinct to me — if the ball’s in the air, I’m looking for it.”

Baxter struck again at the 8:09 mark. This time he received a pinpoint, over-the-top pass from teammate Zander Efird, broke in alone on goal and pumped a 10-yard shot beyond Robins’ outstretched fingertips, just under the crossbar.

“It was a great ball from Zander,” he explained. “Over-the-top, on-the-fly. I didn’t hit it too hard or too soft. I just placed it where it needed to go.”

Baxter completed a hat trick with 27:15 remaining in the first half — when he gathered a loose ball on the left side and bunny-hopped a 20-yard grounder into the far right corner of the net. “Honestly, I was speechless,” said South defender Cam Phillips. “The fact that he scored three goals in 13 minutes, that brought the whole team up. It kind of sent a message.”

“When we get in a pressure situation, Dalton’s the one I want on the ball,” Fisher added. “Three quick goals is something we did not expect to happen, but I’m so glad it did.”

Tapia and Avilez traded second-half goals and the rest was up to Anderson — who sprawled, stretched and swallowed shots like a circus performer stopping munitions from a cannon.

“This team would not be where it is without Parker,” said Phillips, a senior right back. “He’s a brick wall back there. When we make mistakes, more than half the time he’s the one who gets us out of jail.”

Instead, Anderson has provided a steadfast foundation that could take the Raiders places.

“Whenever he steps on the field, we know our goal is well-protected,” Fisher said. “He’s really good at placing walls, as we saw tonight. His IQ of the game is above-and-beyond. With him playing so well, who knows where we can go now?”

NOTES: Salisbury (7-5, 5-4) dipped to 3-3 at home and had its two-game winning streak snapped. The Hornets outshot South, 16-11. … SHS forward Dennis Anaya had a first-half goal disallowed due to an offsides call. … Baxter has six goals this season, four of them on headers. … Both teams play CCC matches on Wednesday. Salisbury hosts Thomasville and South visits East Davidson.

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