PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry defeated South Stokes 2-0 on August 30 to pick up its first win of the 2021-22 season.
Coach Andy Jessup enters his third season as East Surry head coach. The Cardinals return many of its players from the spring 2021 season, including four seniors that have been with the team at least three years: Jacob Lowe, Nick Lowery, Kevin Ramirez and Alfonso Bautista. Another senior, Jesus Estrada, joined the team last season and made an immediate impact as a starting midfielder.
This senior class looks to surpass the .500 mark after finishing just under the mark the last three seasons. East finished 7-8-2 in 2018, 8-10-1 in 2019 and 4-6-1 during the spring 2021 season.
“We’ve got a really good senior group and we’re piecing things together,” Jessup said. “It’s going to be a good season. I’m optimistic for us in spite of all the challenges we’ve faced early on.”
East Surry fielded one of its smallest rosters ever at the start of the year. Though the numbers have been rising each week since practice began, the Cardinals have still felt the effect of losing multiple forwards and the last year’s starting keeper to graduation.
Finding a new keeper wasn’t easy with such a small roster, and that was made even more difficult with East’s non-conference schedule. Inclement weather cancelled all the Cardinals’ matches during the first week of the season. This left the team with three matches to play during the season’s second week. Each of these matches came against top-ranked teams in the 1A division.
East opened the season with a match at Mount Airy, a team that reached the West Regional Final twice in the past four years and is currently ranked No. 2 in the division by MaxPreps, on August 23. The Bears walked away with the win 8-3. Estrada scored two goals for East in the opening loss, and junior Juan Caro added another.
The Cards traveled to Mount Airy three days later and were defeated 8-0.
“Our back line is really talented, and we return all four of those starters from last year,” Jessup said. “Playing a powerhouse like Mount Airy twice early on is tough on anyone, but I truly believe our defense is going to be a force this season and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.”
East Surry’s starting back line consists of two seniors, Lowe and Bautista, as well as a junior in Cara and a sophomore Logan Fagg. East rotated players at keeper the first three games, with Lupe Chavez and Christian Mikolics among those spending time in goal.
The Cards’ other big challenge came against Elkin, a team that’s currently undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the 1A division by MaxPreps. The match versus Elkin on August 25 was scoreless for 65 minutes of play. Jessup said the Cardinals controlled possession for a lot of the game and that the midfielders, featuring multiple returning starters such as Lowery, Estrada and Chavez, kept pressure on the Elks.
However, East wasn’t able to score. Elkin finally broke the 0-0 tie with a goal in the 65th minute before adding another to seal the 2-0 victory.
“That one was a little frustrating because we really did have good looks but just couldn’t finish,” Jessup said. “Jesus had a one-on-one with the keeper and Elkin’s keeper made a good play. Another time, Nick hit one off the crossbar. So it hurt a little to lose that one.”
Which leads to the Cardinals home match against South Stokes on August 30. Jessup said East had most of the possession and the most chances in the game. This led to two first-half goals, including one from freshman Tristan Hernandez.
Hernandez is part of the young offensive corps of East Surry. The only veteran in the unit is junior Alex Galvan, while the rest of the players are freshmen or sophomores.
Hernandez’s goal came off a deflection from the keeper. Lowery and Estrada worked up the field with back-and-forth passing before a shot was fired. The Saura keeper blocked the shot, and Hernandez was there to clean it up.
East Surry’s second goal came from a penalty kick. Lowery drew the foul inside the Sauras’ 18-yard box and also scored on the PK.
The first half of the match went by as planned, but a weather delay kicked in during halftime. Play resumed 30 minutes later. The second half was business as usual for 25 minutes, but the game was permanently stopped due to weather with 15 minutes remaining. East Surry was awarded the 2-0 victory.
In addition to serving as the Cards’ first win, the South Stokes game was the first career shutout for East’s Caden Lasley. Lasley, who also plays JV football, joined the team before the second Mount Airy game.
“He’s a good athlete that’s doing well to learn the position,” Jessup said. “South Stokes played more aggressive during the second half, and he was able to make some good saves to keep the shutout alive.”
Trey Armstrong is another player football player that helped out the soccer team when football was unable to play.
“Trey’s another really good athlete, which is evident because he’s the starting running back on the varsity team,” Jessup said. “He grew up playing soccer so he knows the game. A lot of the football team came out to support him and watch us play. That was really cool for our team, especially the older guys that have really put in work the last few years and deserve the recognition.”
East Surry’s next match will be against South Stokes in Walnut Cove on Thursday, Sept. 9. The Cardinals begin conference play the following week against North Wilkes at home.