DENVER — The North Lincoln Knights men’s varsity soccer team opened Southern Piedmont Conference play with a win on Monday.
Not only was it a win, it was a 4-1 win over the East Lincoln Mustangs, and it marked the first time the Knights (7-2-1, 1-0 SPC) have ever defeated the Mustangs in the 10 seasons the teams have been playing against each other. The Mustangs (2-8-0, 0-2 SPC) had a 19-game win streak against North Lincoln headed into Monday’s match.
“As an East Lincoln coach I knew it was bound to happen,” East Lincoln head coach Jason Dragoon said. “With 19 straight wins and a very big rivalry, it was only a matter of time before they found the right combination of players and timing to put an end to our undefeated streak.”
The Mustangs jumped on the board less than three minutes into the match on a goal from senior James Holmes after a long throw-in into the goal box from senior Darin Salter. The Mustangs attempted a similar play several more times throughout the match, but only the first resulted in a goal.
“We have multiple guys who can do it,” Dragoon said. “We made some adjustments to our long throws, and obviously the first time we made one, our adjustments were very effective and we finished the goal. Unfortunately, multiple long throws later they did a pretty good job of getting their big, strong guys into the box. We created some chances out of those long throws.”
North Lincoln freshman Zach Tilley knotted the game at 1-1 when a shot by one of his North Lincoln teammates was deflected off an East Lincoln defender and allowed him to take a shot over the ground and into the net at the 28-minute mark.
Both teams threatened through the rest of the first half, but North Lincoln was able to take a 2-1 lead on a penalty kick with just over a minute left before halftime.
Freshman North Lincoln forward Justin Gannaway made a run on the East Lincoln goal but was met by Mustang keeper Tony Cardwell. The two players jostled within the goal box, and Cardwell was called for a foul, setting up the penalty kick. Gannaway sunk a right-footed shot into the upper-right corner of the East Lincoln net.
North Lincoln head coach Tim Harris said taking a lead into halftime gave his team the poise it needed to finish the match.
“Our second half was better than our first half,” he said. “We kind of panicked in the first half, but we calmed down and tried to possess the ball more the way we’ve worked on. We weren’t confident on the ball in the first half. We felt like we had to get rid of it, and not play our game. When we scored the goal that put us ahead, it helped us.”
North Lincoln sophomore Mitchel Brown put the Knights ahead 3-1 when his run on goal drew Cardwell out of the East Lincoln net, allowing the score. Senior Jacob Stegal added the final North Lincoln goal as time in the match expired.