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Superior depth and effective second-half adjustments lifted the host Fike High varsity boys soccer team to a 5-2 3-A Big East Conference victory against Southern Nash on the final night of summer Friday.
The rivals, in the rescheduled match, scrapped to a 2-2 halftime standoff. However, Fike dominated after a midfield adjustment and the Firebirds yielded to fatigue. Southern Nash was without the services of four players — three of whom see significant action — for various reasons.
Still, the Golden Demons clung to a 3-2 edge until sticking in a pair of goals in the final six minutes. Seniors Myles Cyrus and Jaylen Guillen each notched a pair of goals.
Fike climbed to 2-0 in the conference and to 6-2-1 overall, while Southern Nash slipped to 1-1 and 3-6-2, respectively.
Demons head coach Chris Mizelle explained the adjustment consisted of slipping one more defender deeper into the midfield.
“I thought we were exposing ourselves on counters,” Mizelle said. “The boys did a good job of responding to what we asked them to do. The credit goes to them; I could have been just as wrong as I was right.”
In the sixth minute of the second half, Fike didn’t quit on a flurry in front of the goal and Cyrus cranked in the go-ahead goal.
The score remained 3-2 in Fike’s favor until, on a counter, senior Israel Villobos flicked the ball to a wide-open Cyrus, who easily won his one-on-one test with Firebirds goalkeeper Alejandro Ledezma.
With just under a minute showing, sophomore Gavin Wheeler added the final goal off junior Mason Lee’s corner kick.
In the meantime, senior Fike goalkeeper Josh Avery and defenders Lee, senior Clayton Snyder, freshman Oc Bolt and sophomore Jarrett Smith stifled the Southern Nash attack. Avery, the quarterback on the varsity football team, proved a solid fill-in for regular keeper Tanner Sullivan, who was out of town.
The defense was aided by Fike’s excellent ball control.
“Possession is a big part of what we want to do,” Mizelle commented, “and the second-half was top-notch.”
Southern Nash head coach Carlos Barron agreed lack of depth and fatigue was “a big part of it. We were definitely without key people. I did notice in the second half Fike was playing three back and not four.”
Southern Nash opened the scoring with some 25 minutes left in the first half. Leading scorer Carlos Garcia, a senior, scored on an assist from junior Brian Cueves.
But Fike answered in rapid-fire fashion with a pair of goals on shots from some 20 yards out from Guillen.
Guillen, coming off a hat trick (three goals) in Wednesday’s win against Franklinton, credited movement and sharp passes from teammates.
“Just making good choices with the ball,” he reasoned. “We just try to stay wide, hit the open man and slip into position. We did a good job of passing it around, getting wide, making good runs and taking good shots.”
But the Firebirds knotted the score at 2-2 on a goal from junior Adolfo Gonzalez.
The teams combined for three goals in less than 3 1/2 minutes.
Southern Nash’s best second-half threat was negated by an offsides call. Senior Ezikiel Gonzalez slammed a shot just wide and then Avery handled his free kick.
“We didn’t have many subs,” Adolfo Gonzalez said of the Firebirds’ second-half woes. “We have a lot of injuries. We had an excellent first half; we fought them good. But tiredness and not having subs got us. And Fike was well-balanced.”
Conference play continues from both teams Monday, with the Firebirds visiting Hunt and Fike opposing Rocky Mount.
“I can’t help but be happy,” Mizelle reviewed. “It was certainly a competitive game. We started a little slow, but got better as the game progressed. That showed a good bit of maturity.”