The Clinton men’s soccer team opened the 2016-2017 season by hosting a non-conference match against North Johnston. Both teams were coming off strong seasons in 2015 and the match-up had all the makings of an early season showdown. But the Dark Horses had other plans, as they got an early goal and possessed the ball for much of the match, limiting North Johnston’s chances to score and building a lead that was too much for the Panthers to overcome, eventually taking the 5-1 season opening win.
Turner Wells got Clinton’s first goal just 1:40 into the match when Luke Byrd seemingly placed a corner kick right on his forehead, which Wells promptly flicked into the goal to make the score 1-0. The early goal seemed to shock the Panthers and zap their energy and momentum.
Clinton got several more good shots on goal, but a couple of nice stops by the Panther goal keeper and errant kicks kept the game close. Logan Spell picked up the second Dark Horse goal when he slipped past a defender and fired a shot into the Panther goal at the 28:03 mark to give the Horses all the scoring they would need to claim victory.
The Dark Horses took the 2-0 lead into the half, appearing to have the game well in hand. The second half opened with more of the same strong offensive play, with Clinton putting an all-out blitz on the North Johnston goalie. Just 40 seconds into the second frame a Panther player committed a hand ball violation in the box resulting in a Garrett Sanderson penalty kick and Clinton’s third goal.
North Johnston finally got on the scoreboard when they got a goal off a rebounded shot to cut the lead to 3-1 at the 52:29 mark. The Dark Horses quickly answered the Panther score when Turner Wells headed in his second goal of the night at 63:58 off another corner kick, this one coming off the foot of Reid Taylor. Donald Blue wrapped up the Dark Horse scoring with a goal at 68:49 when he fired a beautiful shot from just in front of the goal to give the Dark Horses a 5-1 advantage and the final margin of victory.
After the game Clinton head coach Brad Spell expressed his satisfaction with the opening game win.
“I knew coming in tonight it was going to be a tricky one,” stated Spell. “North Johnston has a good soccer program. They were 21-5-1 last year and brought most of their players back. We had several people banged up a little bit coming out of training camp but overall I am pleased with the effort for the first game. This was a good win, and I am proud of our team. We will take it and keep working. We have a couple of tough games this weekend in the Battle at the Beach Tournament, so we have to recover and get ready to go in a hurry.”
Clinton’s next game is on Friday at 4 p.m. in Maysville against West Carteret. The Dark Horses play their second game of the Battle at the Beach less than 24 hours later when they face Knightdale at noon on Saturday.
Reach Mike Carter at [email protected]