Pam Pack trying to make challenges when there are none

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Washington led Kinston, 7-0, at halftime of Wednesday’s game. Coach Jim Kozuch was not satisfied. His message was clear: score two more goals in the first four minutes or run two miles after the game.

It wasn’t a knock against Kinston. Far from it, in fact. The Vikings went into the match without a full 11-man squad. Playing with no substitutes it hard enough, let alone doing so with a short-handed starting lineup. Kozuch and the Pam Pack went out of their way to commend Kinston for the way they played considering the circumstances.

Rather, it was Kozuch’s way of manufacturing adversity.

“Time to time, you’ve got to do that,” he said. “… It just takes one shot to win a game or lose a game. I’ve been a part of those games where we dominate the game, we give up one goal, and we end up losing. You create that sense of urgency. Now it’s time to play like we were down 4-3 to Rose or down 3-2 to Conley. Play like you played those last five minutes. Play with that same urgency. Sometimes it creates that killer instinct.”

It also helps that Washington has something left to fight for in the conference. North Lenoir beat the Pam Pack in Washington on Sept. 13. It will need a road win against the Hawks on Oct. 9 to have a shot at a conference title.

“If we keep winning and they keep winning, the best we can do is tie because they’re not going to lose,” Kozuch said. “We need to split for conference champions. That’s all we can do. We’ve got to do our job. I believe we can beat them. The date is circled on the calendar.”

Washington has gone above and beyond when scheduling some of the toughest non-conference opponents it can find around: Rose, Conley, South Central and North Pitt. In past years, the Pam Pack would measure itself against perennial championship contender First Flight.

Once conference play comes around, though, strength of schedule is out of Washington’s control. There have only been one or two true challenges, whether it was during the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference days or now in the 2-A Eastern Carolina.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that playoff seeding is decided by MaxPreps ranking, which heavily considers strength of schedule. Washington can pick up as many wins as it wants down the stretch and still be clawing for a home playoff game.

“It’s tough, especially in a year like this because the state playoffs go strictly on MaxPreps rankings,” Kozuch said. Washington is trying to endure a talent turnover this season. “Of course, these guys are trying their hardest, but when (Kinston) is ranked 108th out of 108 teams, our strength of schedule goes to the bottom.”

Washington got on the board when Marcos Bolivar scored just 25 seconds in. Kozuch took out most of his starters by the 13th minute because they hadn’t found twine since that opening goal.

Noah Roberson scored twice in the first half, and Bolivar netted his second after Cody Pinkham flicked a ball over the Viking defense. The Pam Pack also got goals from Tim Anglim, Alsudani Sultan and Saul Rivera before halftime.

Bolivar completed the hat trick with a goal two minutes into the second half, and Gerardo Avilla wrapped things up with a one-man effort a minute later.