DOBSON — A 72nd minute strike from Luke Creed helped lift Surry Central to its first victory of the season.
The Golden Eagles scored first in the nonconference game against Starmount, then the Rams netted the equalizer midway through the first 40 minutes.
An explosive first half turned into a methodical game of chess in the second. Chances were few and far between for both sides, but it was Creed’s goal on an assist from Chris Nava that sealed the deal.
Central moves to 1-1-1 with the win, while Starmount picks up its first loss and drops to 2-1 on the season.
“It was a really tough game,” said Surry Central coach Adan Garcia. “Starmount has really been a quality program for years now, and I feel like Cody [Cook] has been filling in those missing pieces and is doing a heck of a job over there. I think we both benefited from that experience, and I hate we don’t get another game with them this year because I think the rematch would be awesome.”
Creed’s two goals, which brings his season total up to four, are the only two goals allowed by Starmount this season; the Rams previously defeated Davie 2-0 and North Wilkes 7-0.
Starmount began the game with Christian Maya and Anthony Real combining for three shots in three minutes. Two of the shots were tipped out for corners, and the remaining shot was wrapped up by Central’s Jose Marquez.
Kevin Avila sent a shot just over the crossbar for Surry Central in the third minute, but possession quickly shifted back to the speedy Starmount squad. The Rams weren’t able to get a shot off, which opened the door for the Eagles to run a quick counter up the visitors sideline.
Cesar Guerrero took a defender on just outside the 18-yard box before cutting in. The Eagle’s cut set Creed up for his first strike.
“They looked very fast and I figured they would come out guns blazing against us,” Garcia said. “I told our guys to control the pace and we’ll find an opening. I didn’t think it would be that early though.”
Central’s goal shifted momentum for the next 15 minutes. It wasn’t until the mandatory water break at the 20-minute mark that things started to tilt the way of the visitors.
Creed possessed the ball in Starmount’s 18-yard box but failed to get a shot off. Starmount took advantage and used a quick counter to gain the numbers advantage.
Maya advanced up the home sideline before crossing to Oscar Ruiz for the finish.
The Rams held the Golden Eagles to just one shot in the final 18 minutes of the first half. By comparison, Surry Central had seven shots up to that point in the match.
Sebastian Rodriguez had Starmount’s best chance to take the lead, but sent a shot over the crossbar in the 29th minute. Mario Crispin and Juan Paloalto also peppered shots at the Eagles’ goal, but Marquez finished the half with six saves.
An offensively-charged first half slowed down dramatically in the second. The teams combined for 19 shots in the first half, but neither side even attempted a shot until the 56th minute. That honor went to Creed who sent a shot off the post.
Central and Starmount only combined for five shots in the second half.
While they weren’t able to take as many shots as they’d like, the Rams maintained constant pressure on the Eagles’ defense in the second half.
“It was just a midfield battle at that point,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t really getting into either final third. I think both defenses were doing great. They did a great job of shutting us down when we had three up top, and not a lot of teams can do that.”
The pace of the second half was also slowed due to a rise in physicality. Players were whistled for 12 fouls combined in the half, and three players and one coach were issued yellow cards.
Starmount was called offside with eight minutes remaining in regulation. The big Central kick soared over the midfield line and was flicked over the Starmount back line by Nava. Creed took the flick just outside the 18-yard box before cutting to his right and firing a shot that found the back of the net near the far post.
“Starmount is definitely a team to watch this season,” Garcia said. “They were a lot more organized than we were at the start, and then dominated parts of the game to set up really good chances. Thankfully we were able to capitalize on the chances we did have.”