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Golden Eagles rising to the challenge

The Surry Central Golden Eagles defeated Ashe County 6-0 on Tuesday to improve to 5-1-1 on the season.

It’s said teams learn more in defeat than in victory, and that was the case for Surry Central. The Eagles’ first two matches of the 2021-22 season were cancelled due to weather, so the team opened with a match at 4A Watauga – which Central lost 9-0.

Changes were made after losing to the Pioneers on August 19, and those changes have paid dividends. Surry Central hasn’t lost or conceded a goal in nearly a month. The win over 3A Ashe County is the Eagles’ largest margin of victory this season.

“After that first game, their mentality was just ‘no more goals,’ and it’s great to have a team hustling this hard to not concede a goal,” Coach Garcia said. “I’m proud of the defense, they’ve stepped up. It’s not just them, the midfielders have been getting back to help as well and the strikers too have been dropping back.”

The Golden Eagle defense is anchored by two veteran players in Johnny Garcia and Eli Gonzalez. The duo are multi-year starters and are two of Central’s seven upperclassmen.

“I’ve just been telling the guys to trust the two captains in the back and listen to them,” Coach Garcia said. “He and Eli will get on people if they make a mistake. They want that clean sheet and they work hard for it. Even when the score was 6-0, they were still hustling and protecting it.”

Surry Central controlled possession for most of the first half despite only scoring once. Sophomore Tino Martinez netted the goal on a header assisted by Gonzalez in the 19th minute. Chris Nava had a header of his own a few minutes later thanks to a Martinez cross, but his shot was saved by Ashe keeper Harrison Langdon.

Ashe County only managed a few good looks at the Central goal in the first half, but only managed to get three shots off. Gracen Cline shot off target in the 23rd minute, Dylan Short put one into the side-netting after a Huskies corner kick in the 32nd minute and Jonathon Tomko’s shot in the 37th minute was saved by Johnny Garcia.

Johnny Garcia’s willingness to leave his line prevented a few Ashe County shots before they could develop. The keeper intercepted crosses and long through balls throughout the first half.

Central did a better job of capitalizing on opportunities in the second half. Daniel Juarez had two looks at the Huskies goal in the first 120 seconds of play, but both were saved by Ashe’s Langdon. The Eagles’ quickly found the back of the net, though, as freshman Luke Creed cleaned up a rebound in the 46th minute.

Dominoes continued to fall as Surry Central piled on goal after goal. Creed crossed to Nava in the 47th minute, and Nava found a streaking Martinez at the top of the 18-yard box. Martinez placed a shot in the upper-right corner of the frame to increase the lead to 3-0.

Juarez made it 4-0 with a 51st-minute goal on an assist from Jonathan Avila, and Jordy Avila scored Central’s fifth goal of the evening on a Martinez assist in the 57th minute.

Surry Central’s sixth goal came in the 73rd minute. Gonzalez picked up his second assist with a cross to Nava, who put a shot just inside the near post after a chest trap. Five of Central’s six goals were assisted.

The Golden Eagles out-shot the Huskies 13-3 in the second half. Ashe’s John Perkins had two shots on goal that were saved by Johnny Garcia in the 62nd and 76th minute, and Anderson Schuster put one over the crossbar in the 67th minute.

A strong performance has Coach Garcia feeling good about his team’s progress heading into Foothills 2A Conference play. Surry Central defeated West Wilkes 3-0 on Sept. 13 to start 1-0 in the conference.

“I feel good because we played some quality teams in the build-up,” Coach Garcia said. “Just about every team is bigger than us, so that, in turn, just pushes every single one of my players to get rid of the ball quicker and move it up the pitch. We create a lot of chances; all we have to do now is finish. That’s our objective in practice now because we have to finish teams off before they pounce on us.“

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