Rockets Go Furthest in Soccer Playoffs - TribPapers

Rockets Go Furthest in Soccer Playoffs

Roberson scores on West on a deflected shot by Levi Steiner (at left, in white). Steiner drives in, as Dorian Sepulveda (27) charges the net to kick in the rebound. TCR’s Jack Cunagin (20) and Brody Buckner (9).

Asheville Soccer playoffs concluded Saturday for Buncombe and Henderson county public high school boys’ squads, as A.C. Reynolds lost by a goal in round three.

Hendersonville (9-3) won its 2A playoff opener 5-0 over West Wilkes in fog at home on March 16 but then lost 4-0 at unbeaten Hibriten (16-0) last Friday. Owen (8-3-1) lost 2-1 in its 2A opener, to Fred T. Foard.

A.C. Reynolds (10-4-2) did best among local teams in playoffs. The Rockets won close contests in their first two rounds. They edged Southwest Guilford 1-0. They then tied Concord 2-2 last Friday, sending the match to a shootout that Reynolds won quickly by a 4-to-1 count. Both ACR and HHS had their road games put off a day due to forecast rain. In Reynolds’ case, it won but had to play the next day — last Saturday. This is after playing 110 minutes including two overtime periods, then the shootout, then the bus ride back.

Coach Patrick Gladys‘ Rockets lost 3-2 to Hickory (14-1) at home Saturday. The game was 1-0 at halftime, then 3-0 in the Red Tornadoes’ favor when Reynolds’ offense erupted late. Cyrus Ager scored. Then top scorer Asa Blake drilled in a free-kick, to pull to within a goal with over two minutes left. But ACR could not tie it.

Blake had 25 goals and 15 assists. He scored five goals each in two of ACR’s first two matches including a 7-2 win over Asheville, then blasted in four goals two matches later. He later switched from forward to midfielder to boost ACR ball handling.

In beating Concord, Blake and Lachlan McDougald (12A, 9G) scored Reynolds’ goals. They later scored in the shootout; so did Evan Wortley and big Ben Reed. Unable to keep up in their first shooting go-around, the Spiders ended stuck in a web of futility.

Sophomores Sean Green, the goalkeeper, and Moises Diaz (9G, 7A) are among rising Rocket stars.

Elsewhere among WMAC teams, T.C. Roberson (12-2-1 overall) was squeezed out, in its opener. It tied Marvin Ridge 2-2 but lost the shootout by 4-3. North Henderson (11-3-1) fell 2-1 at Cox Mill.

The top three in the WMAC regular season were Roberson (12-1-1) by a game over Reynolds (11-2-1), with North Henderson third at 10-2-2.

Coach Josh Martin’s Rams won 2-1 at Reynolds March 3 to clinch first, after tying ACR 1-1 earlier. TCR’s sole WMAC defeat was 1-0 to Asheville on March 4, on Abe Goldstein’s arcing 20-yard shot in the second overtime.

Roberson’s leading scorer Jack Cunagin (18G, 9A), a strong junior midfielder, registered two three-goal “hat tricks.” Brady Buckner (13G, 8A), a junior, is the football placekicker. Other top Ram scorers were seniors Erik Hanson (10G) and Josh Gerald (7G, 6A).

Ram goalkeeper Eric Chimalpopoca won a regular-season game for all 12 letters in his surname. The senior tallied three shutouts in a row — ending with a crucial 1-0 double-OT triumph over North Henderson Feb. 15.

North Henderson beat Reynolds 1-0, then tied ACR 2-2 on March 8. Leading scorers for Coach Ricardo Hernandez’ Knights were Jermy Villa with 15 goals and 10 assists, and junior Ezekial Riddle with 19 goals — also in nine games. They scored nine of the Knights’ ten goals against Erwin.

Bearcats on Prowl, Eagles Snubbed

Hendersonville had the Mountain Six’s top two scorers, in 6-foot-1 sophomore midfielder Cooper King (15G, 7A) — also the football kicker —  seniors Levi Hord (14G, 5A) and Mateo Zambrano (7A, 4G), and junior Nick Hampton (7G, 4A). King scored four goals in a 6-1 win over Pisgah.

Hendersonville, coached by Stu Scot, dominated West Wilkes in the 5-0 win. Hampton then Zambrano scored early. HHS put the game away with two goals in a minute and a half — by Hord, then the first of two by King with 12:33 left.

By then, the Cats seized a “mental” edge as “we controlled the ball — and the game,” King said. Zambrano liked how HHS kept up the pressure on the offense. Hord said the Cats mesh well, and are “connected” as friends off the field.

HHS head coach Stu Scott praised his players’ “read and react” instant decisions, such as to “change the point of attack.”

The game was switched to nearby East Henderson, which has a turf field, due to a rain-soaked HHS grass field.

The Cats topped the M6 with an 8-2 mark. That was one game better than East (also 9-3 overall) and Smoky Mountain (7-5-2 after a first-round departure). In a controversy, Smoky got the nod over East as the sole M6 at-large team. Playoff fields are half their usual size in various high school sports, to trim downplay amidst the pandemic. Otherwise, both schools would have likely qualified.

Eagle Nation is justified to feel unfairly snubbed. Coach Jacob Lucy’s Eagles beat Smoky at home. Earlier, the teams tied in Sylva. The customary shootout was not supposed to be used in the regular season this spring — only in playoffs —as a COVID restriction that curtails overall play and close (shooter and goalkeeper) contact.

However, a shootout was held and Smoky won it and the game. It should have been a tie, which would have resulted in East ahead of Smoky for the wild card playoff berth. Even with its phantom win, Smoky did worse than East in overall records making its selection more questionable.

Both teams beat HHS once. East did it in the regular-season finale by 2-1, to avenge a 2-0 loss earlier. Jason Pereira scored the winner for East. The senior scored 10 goals this season. The leading Eagle scorer was freshman Arturo Hernandez-Martinez (11G, 5A).

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