Seahawks primed for playoff run

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CHOCOWINITY — Luke Matthews’ team-leading 17th and 18th goals of the season propelled Southside past Riverside, 4-1, in Monday’s season finale. The Seahawks, winners of three in a row, now set their sights on the postseason.

They appeared to be in a good place this time last year. They finished the regular season 13-7 and ranked second in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference, only trailing East Carteret. However, Southside ended up getting dismantled, 9-1, at home by North Duplin in the first round.

The Seahawks are a more mature group this time around, and look forward to what they can accomplish once the playoffs begin.

“Last year’s team was pretty much the same team as we have this year,” coach Jay Petty said. “We only lost one senior. Last year, they were just extremely young, a lot of sophomores and juniors. We’re juniors and seniors this year, pretty much. Hopefully the maturity level is what’s going to pay off for us this year.”

The Seahawks have 10 upperclassmen among their ranks. The team’s four seniors — Daniel Lopez, David Romero, Fabian Ramirez and Ethan Harris — captain the squad. They’ve seen postseason action before and know what to expect.

The experience has helped lead Southside to a 14-4-1 season, but the youth has also been important. Matthews, a sophomore, leads the team in scoring. Freshman forward Jario Juarez’s 16 goals rank second on the team.

One key for Southside to remain successful moving forward is for those younger players to continue to step up in the same way. The team’s leaders may be able to tell them what to expect, but it comes down to the likes of Juarez and Matthews sticking to their game.

“We’ve got a good group of seniors showing leadership,” Petty said. “It boils down to the senior leadership. They get on the field, and the rest of them follow their lead. It’s been very helpful and very productive.

“I’ve noticed it in a few games that our senior leadership is stepping up. They’re getting people where they need to be, keeping them motivated and keeping them playing.”

Luke Matthews finds himself in behind the defense in a game early in the season. The sophomore leads the team in scoring this season.

Luke Matthews finds himself in behind the defense in a game early in the season. The sophomore leads the team in scoring this season.

Southside won’t find out its first-round opponent until seeding takes place on Thursday. Petty feels that the Seahawks will be prepared for just about any team. They faced a 4-A team in South Central, and had six games against 2-A schools. In conference action, Southside saw strong competition in the form of East Carteret.

They’re even relatively confident should they have to travel at any point in the playoffs. The Seahawks are 7-1-1 away from Chocowinity this season.

“I believe we’ll be fine. I actually feel like we’ve played pretty well on the road this year,” Petty said. “That was one of our struggles last year, and something we, as a team, we going to do better at.”

A fast start has been the catalyst for some of Southside’s strongest performances this year. After coming out slow on Monday, Petty would like to see his team storm out of the gate in the first game of the playoffs.

“We played a really good second half Monday night,” Petty said. “We struggled a little in the first half, I think, because we were a little flat. If we can come out and not be flat, I think we’re playing pretty good soccer right now.”

Petty said that a date and time for Southside’s first-round game will be finalized once seeding takes place on Thursday, but that the Seahawks are likely to start their postseason campaign on Friday or Saturday.