Washington thrashes Bunn in second round

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, November 7, 2015

FANCY FEET: Freddy Jimenez puts his skill on display as he goes to spin around a Bunn defender. He scored twice in Washington’s second-round win.

FANCY FEET: Freddy Jimenez puts his skill on display as he goes to spin around a Bunn defender. He scored twice in Washington’s second-round win.

It was business as usual for Washington when it hosted Bunn in the second round of the 2-A state soccer playoffs. This time around it was Erik Ruiz scoring a hat trick to help lead the Pam Pack to a 7-1 victory and into the next round of the playoffs.

One key difference between this game and Washington’s first-round match up with South Granville was the atmosphere. Bunn brought a vocal group of fans. The officials were vocal, too. It had all the makings for a heated game.

The Pam Pack’s maturity shined through — arguably brighter than their seven-goal performance. They got a pair of yellow cards, but remained relatively levelheaded throughout the contest.

“I guess in every game you play, there’s things to improve on,” said coach Jim Kozuch. “I think we did our best not playing back into it. Their fans were screaming at our guys and our guys were getting upset about it. I settled them down at halftime and let them know to just go through me and I’ll take care of it.

“The big thing is, obviously, if you let them go, it’s going to get in your head. I think that some of the older guys were able to calm down some of the younger guys.”

The environment will only get harsher as Washington moves deeper into the playoffs. This was a taste of what they may see down the road.

After a somewhat slow start in their last game, the Pam Pack jumped out early on against the Wildcats. The game was fast paced right off the bat and it only took six minutes for them to find twine. Ben McKeithen whipped in a cross that found the head of Holt McKeithen.

“I liked the way we played, but I still think there’s definitely room for improvement,” Kozuch said. “We have to improve every round if we’re going to win these games … Hopefully our guys get mentally prepared and stay strong.”

Bunn nearly equalized the game two minutes later. William Tate came out of the net to play the ball. His aggression almost backfired, but one of his defenders was able to clear it before it found its way into the net. Bryan Reyes had a chance to tie in the 11th minute when he was in alone against Tate. He ended up shooting the ball wide left.

Ruiz scored his first of the game in the 14th minute. The only thing more impressive than the shot to the lower-left corner was the backflip he performed for his celebration. That caused tensions to flare a bit and the Wildcats got a red card. That forced them to play a man short for the remaining 66 minutes.

Freddy Jimenez, who is known for his scoring prowess, put his playmaking talents on display in the 20th minute. He lobbed a ball ahead to Kyle Hodges on the counter attack and Hodges headed it to the far side of the goal.

Ruiz and Jimenez each scored to give Washington a 5-0 advantage heading into halftime. Jimenez’s late goal was a bullet into the top-right corner. The shot was off and in the net before Bunn’s goalkeeper even had a chance to move.

“It was a big game for us. Obviously, scoring five goals in the first half was important for us,” Kozuch said. “It gave us the chance to rest some players. We’re excited to move on and get into the next round.”

The Pam Pack scored twice more in the second to put the game away. Jimenez capped off the scoring when he recovered from a foul, beat a defender dribbling through the box and converted from point-blank range.

“It’s awesome having all these (scoring) options,” Kozuch said. “You can’t focus on one player here. If you focus on one guy too much, one of our other guys is going to punish you. It’s made us dangerous all year.”

Greyson Schmitt continued to stand out by scoring the other goal of the second half.

“Up top, we don’t have a lot of depth at forward,” Kozuch explained. “I moved Greyson Schmitt from defense to forward this year. He’s got fast legs and he’s exciting. He’s always ready to go when he gets called on. He always gives us a little bit of a spark.”

Washington will host the winner of North Johnston vs. North Lenoir. If their opponent is the former, it will be the third time those conference foes have met this season.

It’s also worth mentioning that No. 1 First Flight — Washington’s only loss of the season — fell 2-1 to No. 17 Northeastern.