BOONE — When the Watauga boys’ soccer team hosted Marvin Ridge in the second round of the state 3-A playoffs, Pioneers coach Josh Honeycutt walked away very impressed with the Mavericks.
Watauga claimed a 2-0 win over Marvin Ridge on Nov. 9 and continued to the third round of the playoffs. The Pioneers (17-5-1), winners of 15 of its last 16 matches and 11 straight, host Statesville at 6 p.m. on Nov. 13 at Jack Groce Stadium.
“They were the best team I’ve ever coached against in the three years I’ve been doing this,” Honeycutt said about Marvin Ridge. “That’s not a terribly long time compared to other coaches, but in the three years I’ve coached they were by far the best team that we’ve played against.”
Statesville (13-7-2) upset third-seeded T.C. Roberson 2-1 on Nov. 9. Honeycutt expects a Statesville team to be similar to Northwestern Conference rival Hickory, especially defensively.
“They are a very defensive-minded team,” Honeycutt said. “From what I understand, they try to defend, try to not let you score and then keep clearing the ball out and hopefully try to get a counter-attack goal out of it.”
Honeycutt said Statesville, which finished in a tie with North Iredell for second place in the North Piedmont Conference behind South Iredell, positions several players inside the 18-yard box to make it difficult for opponents to score. Watauga’s offense, which likes to possess the ball, spread the field and then attack the goal when there is an opening, won’t change.
“We’re fairly familiar with that,” Honeycutt said. “I feel like our defense is strong enough to handle the occasional counter-attack possibility and our offense is solid enough to finish our opportunities if they’re going to pack it in the box.”
Statesville, which beat 19th-seeded Western Guilford 2-1 in the first round, has a tough act to follow in Honeycutt’s mind when being compared to Marvin Ridge (15-5-1), which has a very fast team that possessed the ball well, but failed to convert any scoring opportunities into goals.
David Sprague scored the first goal for the Pioneers, giving Watauga a 1-0 halftime lead. Marvin Ridge’s goalkeeper tried to take the ball away from Sprague, missed, and Sprague knocked the ball into the goal.
Ruben Nelson scored the Pioneers’ second goal on a penalty kick, which was in the second half.
Watauga’s defense took it from there, surviving an early 15-minute blitz at the start of the game and keeping Marvin Ridge busy enough not to score again. Watauga’s defense regrouped and was able to disrupt the Marvin Ridge passing lanes to keep the Mavericks off-balance enough to preserve the shutout.
“We rode it out,” Honeycutt said. “We weathered the storm and came out of there not giving any goals up when it was probably they should have scored and probably would have scored against any other defense.”
Watauga has a chance to reach the fourth round of the bracket, where the Pioneers would face second-seeded Concord or 10th-seeded A.C. Reynolds. Concord beat St. Stephens 5-0 and Gastonia Ashbrook 4-1, while A.C. Reynolds beat Parkwood 2-0 in the first round and Central Cabarrus 1-0 in the second.