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An untouched corner kick that resulted in the first goal in the eighth minute ignited No. 2-seeded Greenfield to a 7-0 conquest of The Oakwood School in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletsic Association 1-A boys soccer semifinals on a sunny, warm Saturday afternoon on Greenfield School’s Forbes Field pitch.
Knights freshman Jeremy Alvarez took the corner kick and, as the ball approached the mouth of the goal, players from both teams froze and, suddenly, the ball was past sophomore Oakwood goalkeeper Nathan Barondes for a 1-0 Greenfield lead.
Alvarez contributed another goal and two assists as the Knights vaulted into the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year and next play at home at 6 p.m. Tuesday against No. 3 Statesville Christian in taking the next step in attempting to repeat as the NCISAA 1-A champion.
Seeded No. 7, the Eagles, No. 2 from the Coastal Independents Conference, concluded their season at 12-6.
“It was luck,” Alvarez commented of scoring off the corner kick. “I wasn’t planning on doing that; it happened to go in.”
But the surprise occurrence set the tone for a Greenfield team that stretched its undefeated streak to 13 matches and improved to 17-7-2.
“After we got that first one,” noted Knights head coach Randal Mendoza, “it took a while to get the second one. But once we got the second and third ones to go in, it got everybody behind the ball and things began to happen for us.”
Mendoza pointed out the Knights, beneficiaries of a double bye, had not played since defeating Wayne Country Day for the Coastal Plain Independents Conference tournament championship Thursday, Oct. 12.
“This was nice,” the fourth-year head coach assured. “You could tell we’ve had an extended break. It took us a few minutes to get into a rhythm. It was nice to get back on the field and play ball for 80 minutes.”
Oakwood head coach Drew Weaver suggested the corner-kick goal “sort of” set the tone.
“Greenfield is such a good team that they are going to score,” Weaver explained, “and we were trying to hold them as long as we could. But you can’t give them goals with a mistake like that.”
By halftime, the Knights, also CPIC regular-season champs, owned a 4-0 cushion en route to blasting 19 shots as compared to nine for Oakwood.
With less than 15 minutes elapsed, junior Jackson Stone, easily identified by not only his skills but his yellow-gold cleats, looped an accurate shot over Barondes’ head. Next, sophomore Zeke Ferrell scored off senior Argenis Mejia-Rodriguez’s assist.
Another corner kick factored into the fourth goal. Senior Davis Currin headed in Alvarez’s boot.
“I was planning on playing it to No. 18 (Currin),” Alvarez contended, “and he banged it in.”
Alvarez kicked off the second-half scoring with less than eight minutes elapsed. Ferrell assisted. Next, freshman Will Powell headed in a cross. Finally, senior Cullen Wells, from a favorable angle, cranked an accurate missile. Alvarez had the assist.
Greenfield goalkeepers Luke Flaherty, a junior, and Tommy Fulghum, a sophomore who played the last 28 minutes, combined for the shutout and were supported by a back line of Stone, Wells, Currin and senior Alex Cortez-Rodriguez in handling dangerouts shot fired by the Eagles trio of senior Brandon Sears, senior Alex Adler and junior Jackson Hunt. Flaherty notched seven saves and Fulghum five.
“They showed today why they are ranked so high,” Weaver observed. “I can’t be anything but complimentary. I like their team and the way they play the game. From the way they played today, I think they have as good a chance as anyone of winning it.”
“We can win it again,” he declared, “but we have two difficult games ahead of us.”