BOONE — The Watauga boys’ soccer team overcame temperatures that dropped into the 30s and a physical showdown with visiting Statesville by taking a 3-1 victory over the Greyhounds in the third round of the state 3-A playoffs at Jack Groce Stadium on Nov. 13.
Watauga took a 2-0 halftime lead and then added another with 7:10 left in the match. The sixth-seeded Pioneers advanced to play at No. 2-seeded Concord on Nov. 16.
Watauga (18-5-1) won its 12th-straight match and its 16th match out of 17 games. Watauga’s defense, which has allowed just five goals in its 12-game winning streak, continued to be strong against the Greyhounds. Statesville (13-8-2) scored early in the second half on an attack from the kickoff instead of a counter attack from its defensive end, but the goal cut Watauga’s lead 2-1.
“For the first 15 or 20 minutes before we scored, at any given moment they had all of their players in the (18-yard) box on defense on us,” Honeycutt said. “We knew it was going to happen. We were able to continue to possess and really, they allowed us to possess the ball. We were able to possess and create opportunities.”
Watauga leaned on its season-long strategy of possessing the ball and trying to break past the Statesville defense, which packed its side of the field with players and then used a counter-attack to build offense.
The Pioneers got on the scoreboard first when Walker Franklin rebounded an Ayden Franklin shot that was saved and slipped it into the Statesville goal. David Sprague scored nine minutes later when his laser shot from 25 yards beat the Greyhounds’ defense and gave Watauga a 2-0 lead.
“They had a few chances and we knew really that their only attacker, according to the report I got, was to counter-attack with speed,” Honeycutt said. “Their No. 22 (Jamie Woodard) was extremely fast for them and that’s the guy they looked for.”
Ayden Franklin scored the game-clincher with 7:10 left in the game. He got an assist from Walker Franklin.
The game involved plenty of physical play including shoving throughout the night. Several fouls were called and one led to a penalty kick with 16:46 in the second half by Holden Perry, which was stopped by the Statesville keeper.
“I knew it would be,” Honeycutt said. “I remember when we played Statesville last year it was kind of the same way. They’re a never-say-die team and they fight very hard and if you make it this far in the playoffs, both teams want to advance.”