PUMPKIN CENTER — The North Lincoln Knights topped the Maiden Blue Devils, a nonconference opponent, in a 5-0 shutout Monday night at home.
The Knights’ victory over the Catawba County team is the second time this year. North Lincoln defeated the Blue Devils 5-2 in the Lincoln County team’s first season match earlier this month.
“We did very well,” head coach Tim Harris said of Monday’s match. “We possessed the ball and did good building and using the sides to attack.”
The Knights started the game with ball possession and immediately dribbled the ball down field, attacking Maiden’s goal. However, the attempt proved unsuccessful, and it wasn’t long before the Blue Devils showcased their aggression.
At the two-minute mark, North Lincoln fans cheered sophomore player Mitch Brown’s 18-yard shot after the Maiden goalkeeper left the mouth of the goal, providing the home team with a perfect opportunity to take the lead.
However, it wasn’t until minute 13 that Brown and his Knight teammates celebrated their first match goal. Brown scored off a fellow player’s free kick from the midfield mark.
The Knights doubled their lead with a goal from newbie Justin Gannaway midway through the half. Gannaway’s footwork and ease with the ball revealed how his skills far exceed his freshman status.
Two minutes later, the North Lincoln squad added yet a third point to the scoreboard, tripling their lead over the Blue Devils with Brown’s second personal goal.
Following the play, Knights’ teammates freshman Tyler Tilley and senior Jacob Stegal worked together to move the ball back towards the Maiden net, with Stegal shooting an unsuccessful shot high over the goal.
The Blue Devil defense remained strong against the Knights’ constant pounding throughout the match, but the team’s aggression led to a foul in the goal box at the 31-minute mark, resulting in a penalty kick for North Lincoln senior Jordan Castillo, who sent the ball hard and low into the right corner of the net.
Going into second-half play, the Knights led 4-0 over the Blue Devils. While North Lincoln once again dominated the field a majority of the half, fans witnessed the Maiden squad come alive with their second wind in the game’s final minutes, pursuing their opponent’s goal with increased vigor and aggression, but no shots could get past Knights’ senior goalkeeper Brian Lehman.
The Knights gained only one additional goal in the final half. The play occurred within two minutes of opening play with Gannaway obtaining his second personal goal off a header.
Harris hoped his squad, who placed fourth in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference last season and fell to Shelby High School in the first round of the 2A state playoffs, would be a contender for the conference title.
“We’re heading in there with the right kind of momentum,” he said.
Harris predicted Lincolnton, Lake Norman Charter and East Lincoln would be his team’s biggest season rivals.
“Battles with East are always epic,” he said.