Despite 50 degree temps and a strong, steady breeze, the Clinton Dark Horses played like a team on fire, beating North Johnston 4-1 in the first round of the 2A NCHSAA soccer playoffs.
The Dark Horses started Tuesday’s game a bit tentatively, but finally found their footing — and the back of the net — with four minutes left in the first half. It was a long, high kick by Will Reagan that went over the head of the North Johnston goalie head and between his arms for the first score of the night.
By this time, Clinton had 8 shots on goal and 2 corner kicks to N.J.’s 1 shot on goal and no corner kicks.
The Dark Horses didn’t need to warm up after the half. They jumped on the scoreboard after only five minutes with a side kick assist by Casey Yang that was headed into the net by Wil Pearson.
Twenty minutes later, North Johnston got their first score of the night on a charge to the goal at 62:18. This made the score 2-1.
The Dark Horses wasted no time charging to the other end of the field for their third goal at 63:22. Eric Bradshaw headed the ball into the net from an assist by Luis Aguilar.
The fourth and final goal of the night was an unassisted kick by Aguilar just three minutes later.
The excitement didn’t stop though, as North Johnston came close to hitting the back of the net twice in three minutes as the clock was winding down. Then the Dark Horses charged the net, but just missed to the right as the final whistle blew.
Clinton head coach Brad Spell was excited about the win.”We dominated the midfield, played strong in the back, and started moving the ball better. We started working on getting the ball in the box, and that’s what we need to do more of. We switched to a 4-4-2 for attacking purposes and it paid off. It’s been a while since we scored 4 goals and we’ve got to keep it going on.”
As for the slow start, Coach Spell stated, “I thought we were a little tight in the first half. North Johnston came out and was a little more defensive-minded than what I was expecting. After the first 20 minutes, when we got some of the nervousness out, we started playing a lot better.”
Spell said the team’s focus now is to win on Saturday. “Our next opponent is going to be tough.”
The Horses will play this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Darkness Stadium. They will face the winner of the Providence Grove/Durham School of the Arts match that is scheduled for tonight.
Clinton’s record goes to 15-5-2 and they are now among the final 32 teams left in the state playoffs.