Down the field

Watauga’s Kai Suyao, right, works the ball down the field against Newton-Conover.

BOONE — The Watauga boys’ soccer team let down its defensive guard long enough to allow visiting Newton-Conover a chance to score a first-half goal in a non-conference match Aug. 21.

Up until that time, the Pioneers controlled the ball enough to look like it was ready to score a few goals and walk away from Jack Groce Stadium with a victory. But a mid-game slump following Newton-Conover’s goal left Watauga with a 1-0 loss.

The Pioneers (1-1) had two chances to score robbed from them when two shots got past the Newton-Conover goalkeeper, but hit the goalpost. Watauga also possessed the ball for most of the first half before the Red Devils (1-0) scored, and possessed the ball in the second half, but did not get off many direct shots at the Newton-Conover goal.

“It was disappointing because we built our program on hard work and effort,” Watauga coach Josh Honeycutt said. “When you don’t see it, it really gets frustrating for me and for the boys when we’re playing with our heads down and that’s what happened.”

The loss happened two days after the Pioneers opened the season with a 4-0 road win over Erwin.

Newton-Conover finished the 2018 season as the 2-A state runner-up. The Red Devils finished with a 23-4-1 record last season and lost 2-1 to Clinton in the state 2-A finals.

Watauga hosts the Mellow Mushroom Invitational beginning Aug. 30 with a game against Asheville. The Pioneers’ opponent, depending on the result of their match with Asheville, will be played Aug. 31.

Honeycutt is hopeful the Pioneers can take advantage of the scoring chances they didn’t convert against Newton-Conover.

“We had our opportunities,” Honeycutt said. “A lot of our shots were deflected by defenders. We had some shots that caught somebody’s heel or back or whatever and was knocked away.”

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