Hard-fought road win earns Southside conference title

Published 6:29 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

CHOCOWINITY — Despite losing record goalscorer Luke Matthews to injury early on, Southside still rose to the occasion and defeated Riverside, 2-1, on the road to clinch the conference title, making it the first time the Seahawks have won consecutive conference titles in the soccer program’s history.

Southside (18-1, 8-0 1A Coastal Plains Conference) head coach Jay Petty said he was “elated” with the win over the conference’s second place team, Riverside (11-4-3, 6-2 1A CPC), and making school history.

“This is just awesome, especially for Southside High School,” Petty said. “The soccer program has been going on for, probably, about 10 years now, and the first couple of years, man, Southside was getting their selves blown out of the water by everybody. But these kids, they just kept working, they kept coming through. To all those kids that were up front, that were laying the foundation for what we’ve got going on right now, it’s just been outstanding. And for them to get the back-to-back conference championship, it just goes to show all the hard work these kids, and the kids before them, that have put into it. They’ve built this program and it’s pretty awesome.”

Matthews left the game just ten minutes in due to a hamstring injury, but his teammates picked up the slack, despite not having the senior forward who has scored 36 goals this season, including six in one game to set the school record for goals in a single match.

Southside got on the scoreboard first, just five minutes after Matthews’ departure, thanks to the tried-and-true weapon that is Johnathan Hernandez’s throw-in. Hernandez heaved the ball into the Riverside penalty area, where the Knight defenders committed the cardinal sin of letting the ball bounce in the box. It fell to Carl Branch near the penalty spot, and the senior volleyed the ball into the upper-right-hand corner of the goal.

The Seahawks doubled their lead 10 minutes later, thanks to Jairo Juarez, the team’s No. 2 scorer and leading assist man. Juarez received the ball in the box from a Santiago Lengyel Serralde layoff and fired a shot that was blocked by a Riverside defender. But the rebound fell right to Juarez, who scored with his second bite of the apple.

Riverside, who was fighting desperately for a win that’d give it a share of the conference title, grabbed its goal with 10 minutes left in the first half. Earning a free kick 40 yards out from the Southside goal, Juan Morales shot directly on goal, with the ball just going over the fingertips of Southside goalkeeper Johan Prado and into the net.

The 2-1 score line set up for an intense, back and forth game in the second half that left Petty pleased with how his team stood up to the pressure.

“The second half was just a slobberknocker back and forth. They’d have about a 10 minute run, we’d have about a 10 minute run, so we were just kind of going back and forth, back and forth the entire second half,” Petty said. “They weathered the storm really, really well. There were moments where Riverside had some attacks going forward and the back four held true, Johan (Prado) did really good in the goal, the midfielders played it out well. It was just a really good set of combination and it was just great to watch.”

Despite losing his leading goalscorer, Matthews, to an injury right before the start of the playoffs, Petty is remaining hopeful the forward can return in time for the postseason.

“I don’t think it’s too severe, because he walked off under his own power. He’s limping just a little bit. He just says it feels real tight,” Petty said. “I’m hoping it’s just kind of a pull and nothing really, really serious. Fortunately for us, we should get a bye (in the) first round (of the playoffs), so that means he’s got a full week to rest and recover. So, I’m hoping that that may help play in to him being available for playoffs.”

The win over Riverside wrapped up the regular season for the Seahawks and they will find out their playoff seeding on Oct. 31.