Soccer Warhorses, Jets on Warpath - TribPapers

Soccer Warhorses, Jets on Warpath

James Centers relishes making a tremendous save on the initial shootout shot, which sparked Owen to victory over Patton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Black Mountain – Top seed Owen’s leading scorer Elijah Caro won a shootout thriller, then scored twice as the Warhorses won again last week to reach the 2A West Region title game.

Goalkeeper James Centers made two sensational saves, one to keep the game tied in regulation and the other to start the shootout.

The sole defeat for Owen Warhorses (20-1-3; 12-0 WHC) in 2023 was 1-0 to 4A power T.C. Roberson early in the season. Since then, the Warhorses have been unbeatable.

Trei Morrison led Owen to its first-ever soccer state title, in 2022. That was his first season as the Warhorse head coach. Morrison coached collegiately for over a decade. He led the now-defunct women’s semi-pro Asheville Splash for three seasons. He recently was director of coaching for the Highland Football Club’s male and female teen club squads, affiliated with the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association. He came out of retirement to lead Owen.

Warhorse GK James Centers dashes to make a shootout save against Patton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Warhorse GK James Centers dashes to make a shootout save against Patton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Owen hosted Community School of Davidson Spartans (21-2-1) on Tuesday in round five, the regional finals and also a state semifinal. The Warhorses-Spartans winner plays for the state title — likely this Friday, Nov. 17 — in Bryan Park in Greensboro. The Spartans are near longtime collegiate soccer power Davidson College.

Jet Flight

Meanwhile, 11th seed Enka Jets (20-5-1) played at 3A top-seeded Hickory (22-2-2) on Tuesday for the regional title. The Jets shut out North Henderson 3-0. They upset sixth seed Piedmont 1-0 in round two. The Jets edged Cramer 2-1. On Nov. 9, Enka improved to 11-2-1 at home with a 5-0 shellacking of North Iredell. Jason ReMine coaches the Jets. Brandon Miranda, a junior, leads them with 23 goals and ten assists.

Also in 3A, fifth-seeded A.C. Reynolds (18-6-1) crowned Kings Mountain 9-0 and blanked Franklin 3-0, but lost 3-0 at fourth-seeded Hibriten. Patrick Gladys coaches Reynolds.

Clutch Caro, Garcia

All-state junior Davis Kendall, Owen’s 50-goal scorer from a year ago, missed most of this season due to an injury in the third match. With Kendall rooting them on from their sideline, other Warhorses stepped up.

Caro’s 24 goals pace a balanced Warhorse attack. He averages precisely one goal per match. Caro scored two goals against 13th-seeded Lincoln Charter in round four on Thursday, Nov. 9. The rematch was more decisive than a year ago, when even with Kendall it took a shootout to edge Lincoln Charter.

Owen Lollis kicked in the opening goal, midway into the opening half. The big junior took a pass wide right from Daniel Garcia, cut toward the goal, and penetrated inside the 18-yard mark. Lollis drilled the shot inside the nearest goal post.

Garcia had assists on all three Owen goals. Seniors Daniel Garcia and Caro are skilled in midfield dribbling and igniting scoring rushes. Garcia has 20 goals, Spencer Woolley has 16, and Josiah Wilder and A.J. Loan each scored 14.

Caro scored on a breakaway 20 seconds before halftime, on a Garcia feed, to lead Lincoln Charter 2-0 . Caro added an insurance goal in the second half.

Caro had two even more dramatic scores a round earlier, versus Patton Panthers (20-3-3). He opened scoring, and had the eventual game winner. His regulation goal was a long-distance blast from the 35-yard line, on his left side. That snapped a scoreless tie.

St. James the Savior

The Panthers later tied it, were eager to avenge losing to Owen in ‘22 playoffs, and briefly had momentum and control of the ball.

But lanky junior GK James Centers made a pivotal save. He dove to his right and deflected a hard shot with his right hand. Centers registered 16 shutouts in the first 19 games, including the playoff opener.

The score remained at 1-1 through two ten-minute overtimes and two five-minute sudden death OT periods. It came down to a shootout, in which Owen’s superior skill level prevailed. The teams rotate shooters. Patton led off.

The Panther shot to his right, just inside the post. Centers dove to his left, and snatched the shot. He celebrated jubilantly, grinning then thrusting his arms out. “Once James made that save on their first shooter, it demoralized them,” Abraham McTeague-Pospishil said. Coach Morrison praised how Centers “stepped up” in such crucial times.

Owen took a 1-0 shootout lead on Garcia’s goal, to his left. Four of five Warhorses scored in the shootout. Most stuck with the strategy of shooting to their far right inside the post, instead of going opposite of where the goalie seemed to lean.

McTeague-Pospishil (down low) and Josiah Wilder (medium-high) scored for Owen. Patton also scored twice. In round four, Patton scored then made a save to tie the shootout at 3-3. The fifth shootout frame decided the match.

Centers darted left to catch the shot, for his second shootout save. Patton needed a second save, to stay alive.

Instead, Caro scored to seal the victory. “You pick your spot, and stick with it,” Caro said. “I trusted my gut” on what would work best against that goalkeeper. Right after scoring, Caro yanked off his shirt while sprinting toward fans at the home stands’ fence. An onlooking Kendall clapped.

Coach Morrison emotionally urged on his Warhorses in huddles between periods and OTs. “Play to win!,” “believe in yourself,” and “focus on what we all do, and your job” were among his motivational remarks.

“You’re the best team that I ever coached” in such ways as teamwork and tenacity, he said in the post-victory huddle.

In opening playoffs, the Warhorses made it quite unpleasant for Mount Pleasant with a 9-0 whipping on Halloween Eve. They eliminated West Caldwell 3-1, as Woolley scored twice.

Swift sophomore Woolley often dashes forward to try to block enemy goalkeepers’ kicks, rushing them into worse kicks and field possession. Coach Morrison said that going forward, a key is that whenever foes win possession battles, Owen needs to “press” fiercely as usual to “get back the ball.”