LINCOLNTON — Referees made no apologies about the multiple yellow cards, and even one red, they filed against rowdy players on both squads during the Lincolnton Wolves’ 5-0 shutout against aggressive conference opponent the North Lincoln Knights Wednesday night at home.
“We played at the top of our game, and it showed,” Lincolnton head coach Ian Leith said.
The Wolves are currently 1-1 in the 1A/2A Southern Piedmont Conference with an overall record of 6-3-1. The Knights are currently 8-3-1 overall and 2-1 in conference this season.
The high-scoring game shocked Leith.
“I’m sure that when we play there, it will be much closer,” he said of his team’s next matchup against the Knights on their Pumpkin Center field.
Lincolnton started the half by dropping the ball back to sophomore defender Francisco Valazquez, who sent a shot all the way up the field to North Lincoln senior goalkeeper Brian Lehman.
Fans spotted the Knights’ aggressive play early in the half after referees called a foul on a blue jersey. Senior David Segura took the free kick for Lincolnton, but senior Knight Isai Grande thwarted the shot with a header that launched the ball out of the box at the three-minute mark.
The Wolves continuously pounded their opponent’s goal during the half with the Knights taking opportunities to dribble down towards the home team’s net on various occasions including a close play at the nine-minute mark in which a North Lincoln throw-in near the net sent both squads diving for possession of the ball. One player from each squad collided heads in the box, sending the ball across the mouth of the goal with no available foot to knock it in.
Senior Lincolnton forward Dennis Rodriguez showcased his fancy footwork at the 16-minute mark with a rainbow kick toward the North Lincoln goal. However, the shot fell a few feet to the left of the goal.
Rodriquez did celebrate his first of two match goals midway through the half from a penalty kick. The foul on North Lincoln sent players into a frenzy, crowding the head referee with disgust over the call.
Senior Lincolnton center midfielder Kevin Orias, who entered the match shortly after his team’s first goal, sent fans into a clapping frenzy. Orias has been injured most of the season, and Wednesday’s game was his season debut, Leith said.
Lincolnton secured their second goal with two minutes left to play in the half. Segura obtained the point after shooting the ball just feet in front of the goal, overpowering the sea of North Lincoln defenders combating him to protect their net.
The Knights started the second half with a corner kick. Less than a minute later, they were attacking the Wolves’ goal, with players consecutively heading the ball in the box, but no maneuver seemed to launch the ball in the right direction or far enough to hit the back of the net.
At the seven-minute mark, Segura scored off a free kick roughly 40 yards from the goal. North Lincoln senior Clayton Gannaway tried to reach over the goal line and knock the shot out, but it was too late. Lincolnton led 3-0 over the Knights until the 14-minute mark when they again lit up the scoreboard with Rodriguez’s second personal goal.
Rodriguez took the ball and raced down field, scurrying around opponents until standing just feet in front of Knights’ net, at which point he launched the ball past the goalkeeper to secure the point.
Aggressive play continued during the half, resulting in two back-to-back yellow cards for Lincolnton.
At the 29-minute mark, Wolves junior Victor Lopez secured the home team’s fifth and final goal of the night. Senior forward Kevin Rojas assisted the shot by sending a pass through North Lincoln’s defensive line to Lopez.
In the game’s final 10 minutes, referees administered another yellow card to the home squad and the only red card of the night to a Knights player, dismissing him from the rest of the match.
As the rowdy game wound down, the Wolves suffered an offside call, and Gannaway made a last ditch effort to obtain a goal for his team by driving the ball hard down the field’s left side, dribbling it toward the Lincolnton net. Sophomore Wolves player Alejandro Cerdas blocked the North Lincoln senior’s ability to secure a shot.
Leith praised not only the referees’ ability to keep the intense match under control but also his defensive line’s standout play including junior Juan Abonza and senior goalkeeper Kwawtli Mendez, who blocked an unprecedented amount of shots throughout the night.
“The star of the game…was our defense,” Leith said.