Seahawks stay focused in crucial win over conference rival

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

CHOCOWINITY — Facing its top rival this season in the 1A Coastal Plains Conference, Southside scored three second-half goals against Riverside on Monday to come away with the convincing 3-0 victory at home in a game that became chippy near the end as the Knights’ frustration grew.

The Seahawks (14-1, 4-0 1A CPC) have blown out the majority of their opponents this season, so still being tied 0-0 with Riverside (9-3-3, 4-1 1A CPC) at halftime was a break from the norm for Southside, who was tied with the Knights for first place in the conference heading into the game. Southside head coach Jay Petty said he told his players at halftime to “get after it” and told them how crucial it was to strike first once play resumed in the second half.

“(The) boys took care of business in the second half. We were 0-0 at halftime, and I just told them at halftime, ‘Usually, whoever comes out and scores first is the one who’s going to put it away. And we did. Came out and scored in the first five minutes of the second half, and they just kind of snowballed from there, and we just kind of kept putting it in and kept the pressure on them,” Petty said. “But overall, I think we did pretty good, especially in the second half.”

The Seahawks heeded the words of their coach, scoring their first goal just minutes into the second period of play. Southside’s leading assist man, Johnathan Hernandez, and its top goal scorer, Luke Matthews, exchanged roles, as Matthews laid off a ball in the box for Hernandez, who smashed the ball into the net.

Southside doubled its lead just minutes later thanks to Matthews. Jaime Guzman played a through ball to the senior, whose shot trickled past the Riverside goalkeeper for Matthews’ conference-leading 29th goal of the season. Jairo Juarez grabbed the Seahawks’ final goal of the game, pouncing on a rebound in the box after a free kick and slotting it away, giving Southside a 3-0 lead with 20 minutes left in the game.

FOOTRACE: Southside leading scorer Luke Matthews and a Riverside defender race each other in pursuit of the ball during the Seahawks’ 3-0 win over Riverside on Monday. Matthews scored the second goal of the game, his 29th of the season. (Sean Finnerty | Daily News)

The final minutes of the game grew physical and were full of chirping between players, as the Knights grew frustrated from the score line and the referee’s decisions. Even if Riverside felt some calls didn’t go its way, the Knights didn’t create many scoring chances of note, other than some corner kicks. Perhaps their best chance came with 13 minutes remaining with a shot from distance, but Seahawk goalie Johan Prado was alert and made a diving save.

“A few times it got a little scary down there, because they were, they kept getting some corner kicks and some chances,” Petty said. “But overall, I think the backline did really, really well keeping them out of the box, really not giving them very, very many opportunities.”

With Monday’s game between the two top teams in the conference having so much importance in deciding who will win the conference, Petty cautioned his players at halftime about not letting emotion affect their play.

“One of the things I’ve just learned through years of experience doing this is the team that usually stays calm is the team that can pull this out,” Petty said. “And I told them that at halftime, if I start saying something to them about staying calm, I’m not mad, I’m not angry, but I got to keep you calm, because the team that stays calm is usually the one that stays focused and takes care of business.”

Petty’s team squares off against Northside tonight at home, but the Seahawks are wary of their season finale, which will be at Riverside on Oct. 24. Petty is already mentally preparing his team for the rematch with the Knights, as they will be out for revenge.

“What we’re going to look at the next couple of games as we play and as we have some practice time, we’re just going to talk about staying calm,” Petty said. “It’s going to get physical, we know it’s going to get physical when we get there, but just stay calm, play our game and take care of business on the scoreboard. Because that’s what I told them, I said, ‘Ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference what kind of crap they talk, what matters is on the scoreboard.”