EL drops Shelby for first time
DENVER –– The second half of East Lincoln’s boys soccer season opener may have been the best 40 minutes of soccer coach Jason Dragoon has seen.
It was definitely 40 minutes that will never be forgotten.
Sophomore Brett Shanklin weaved his way towards the net late in the second half for the only goal of the match, and the Mustangs held off eighth-ranked Shelby, 1-0, for their first victory over the Golden Lions in their entire soccer history.
Never before had an East Lincoln soccer team, boys or girls, beaten Shelby. A team had come close, Dragoon said, and several times held leads late in both boys and girls play before Shelby rallied to eventually win.
But on Monday, that all changed.
“It’s a huge monkey off our backs. They can now say they’ve finally beaten Shelby,” Dragoon said. “We played some of the best soccer I’ve seen. It was an all-around great team effort.”
Shelby (0-1), ranked eighth in the Eurosportscoreboard.com North Carolina preseason 2A poll, controlled possession for most of the first half, and held a 6-3 shots-on-goal lead but had nothing to show for it heading into halftime thanks to some stellar play in goal by sophomore keeper Taylor Michel, who had four saves on the night.
Possession shifted in the second half, where the Mustangs (1-0) outshot the Golden Lions 6-3.
After the Mustangs failed to net a ball on some clean shots earlier, the speedy Shanklin decided to take it himself. He dribbled his way around the defense from the top of the box, cut left, then back right, and placed the ball just outside of the reach of Shelby’s keeper with 12 minutes to play.
“Brett’s such a good player,” Dragoon said. “He’s so fast, and can beat people off the dribble no problem. We had some good shots but couldn’t get them to go, and Brett did what Brett can do and that’s score.”
Shelby didn’t help its cause eight minutes earlier when junior defender Steven Hill was red carded for fighting with East Lincoln senior Riley Stein, who received a yellow card. The ejection forced the Golden Lions to play with nine in the field for the remainder of the match, and the Mustangs took advantage.
With the plus-one in numbers, they kept firing, and eventually got one to go.
“They may have been a man short, but that’s doesn’t matter,” Dragoon said. “I’ll take it.”
Michel made the game-clinching save when he stopped Steven Pate’s rocket shot into the corner from about 25 yards out.
“Taylor had a great game back there, and he’s only a sophomore,” Dragoon said. “He’s not afraid of getting dirty and getting his hands on any ball that’s hit in his direction.”
The win, however sweet it was, isn’t what will define the Mustangs’ season, Dragoon said. He said it can only help his team going forward, especially heading into Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference play on Sept. 8.
East Lincoln, which finished fifth in the league last season, opens conference play at league favorite and defending champion Newton-Conover, which is ranked 13th to open the season.
“This will give us some confidence, I think,” Dragoon said. “This win will prove to us that we can beat anybody, and will only give us the drive to work harder and continue to improve.”