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BOYS SOCCER — Wolves shut out Mustangs, stay unbeaten

RYAN HERMAN
Sports Editor

DENVER –– Facing its toughest test of the season, undefeated Lincolnton passed with ease.
Graham Willis aided on two goals, and the Wolves took advantage of a visibly tired East Lincoln team that failed to score for the first time this season in a 4-0 win on Wednesday night.
The 10th-ranked Mustangs were two days removed from playing fourth-ranked Newton-Conover to a 5-4 match, while the Wolves were coming off a 7-1 win over Maiden in which they cruised to the finish.
Unranked Lincolnton (7-0-1, 2-0-0 Southern District 7 Athletic 2A) cruised to the finish in this one, and did so while the Mustangs (5-4-0, 0-2-0) tried desperately to keep up.
“In their minds, this gives them a little bit of confidence,” Lincolnton coach Ian Leith said. “I’m just really proud of them. They played hard.”
East Lincoln was the aggressor early on Wednesday, with two good looks that just missed.
Garrett Reavis had a look but his shot was just high of the cross bar, and Riley Stein had a look with no one between him and keeper Daniel McBride, but Stein’s shot went right to McBride, who had four saves.
From then the Wolves took over. Jeffrey Perez had a pair of clean looks but couldn’t convert, then Jose Moya finally did convert when his shot off a rebound at the 16:30 mark of the first half found the net.
Perez made it 2-0 89 seconds later, which was more than enough for the win.
“We gave them a couple of chances early, and if one of them had gone through, this game could have been a lot different,” Leith said. “Once that third goal went through, it was over.”
Willis turned the once-tight match into a blowout on a pair of free kicks from the sidelines. His first with a little over 10 minutes left from his own sideline was headed in by Edward Lopez. He then sent a towering free kick from the Mustangs sideline roughly 50 yards, where East Lincoln keeper Taylor Michel was waiting.
Michel appeared to have caught it, but it squirted through his arms and broke the plane of the goal, giving Lincolnton an insurmountable 4-0 lead inside three minutes left.
“I think 4-0 is indicative of, we played 80 minutes and didn’t have anything in the tank. … We came out and were tired before the game kicked off, and I think it showed,” Mustangs coach Jason Dragoon said.
The win was Lincolnton’s fifth in a row following a 1-1 tie at Morganton Patton on Aug. 26. The combined record of its six previous opponents entering Wednesday, according to results posted on Maxpreps.com, was 11-24-3, with Patton and Hunter Huss being the only two teams the Wolves had played with a winning record.
Leith acknowledged his team’s less-than-difficult schedule, but his 3.9 goal-per-match win margin can’t be ignored.
“The biggest thing right now is they want it. They play as a team and they want it,” Leith said. “To be fair, we haven’t played super-high competition, but this was very good competition. … We haven’t had a blowout win like this down here, against a team this good.”
On the other hand, Dragoon couldn’t ignore the fact his team gave all it had during Monday’s conference opener.
Both Dragoon and Leith know the next time these two meet –– Oct. 6 at Lincolnton –– the match will be played much different.
“We played poorly. We were exhausted from the Newton game the other night. It was one of the top three games I’ve ever coached,” Dragoon said. “If you would have seen us play on Monday, you would have said … it was night and day.”
Added Leith: “I don’t think this score was reflective at all at how the next game’s going to be played.”

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