Even though his team is moving on to the second round of the playoffs, North Murray High School boys soccer coach Matt Chambers couldn’t hide his disappointment.
Either that or he wasn’t happy with his wardrobe choice.
The normally laid-back Chambers donned a tie for his team’s first-round Class 3A state tournament game against Franklin County on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ offense apparently wasn’t inspired, doing just enough to take a 1-0 win over the Lions and advance.
“I am going back to the sweat pants and the T-shirt next time,” Chambers said. “We got the win, and I am happy about that, but it didn’t set us up well for the second round of the playoffs.”
Victor Iturbero recorded the game’s lone goal on a double-ricochet score in the 52nd minute, and as effective as the North Murray (14-1) defense was for most of the night, that was good enough. But Chambers expected more out of his team — the Region 5-3A champions — against the fourth-seeded Lions (5-5).
“We have to go all of the time, and there was some lazy passing and not a great amount of effort,” Chambers said. “The biggest things we need to focus on is playing as a team and hustle.”
The Mountaineers are ranked eighth in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 3A poll.
To begin the game, Franklin County stayed back in a compact zone that frustrated the North Murray offense. North Murray had just two shots on goal in the first half as the teams played to a scoreless tie. Franklin County’s offensive production wasn’t any better with just one shot on goal.
In the second half, as the Lions finally tried to open up their offense and push against the North Murray defenders, there were some gaps the Mountaineers were able to exploit.
One of those opened on Iturbero’s goal.
Guillermo Cruz set the goal up with a spin around a defender down the left side of the box before taking a screaming shot low to the ground. The ball ricocheted off of the near post, and Iturbero was there for the rebound goal, but Franklin County goalie Justin Russell was able to recover enough to swat the shot away. However, Iturbero held course and pushed across the goal.
“They were good on defense, but we should have scored more tonight,” Iturbero said. “I think this will help us focus more as we go try to win the state title.”
The Mountaineers will host the winner of Blessed Trinity and East Hall on Wednesday.
• Oconee County boys 5, Coahulla Creek 1: In another first-round matchup in the Class 3A bracket in Watkinsville, the Colts (12-6-1) were down by four before Pedro Garcia’s 76th-minute goal — assisted by Jo-An Barcenas — helped them avoid a shutout in their first appearance in the state playoffs.
The Warriors (12-5-2) outshot Coahulla Creek, with Colts keeper Missa Fraire recording 24 saves. Oconee County led 3-0 at halftime and scored again some 10 minutes into the second half. The Warriors’ final goal was scored with around 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Region 8 runner-up Oconee County moves on to face the winner of Friday’s match between Decatur and West Hall.
Coahulla Creek, the No. 3 seed from Region 5, was in its second year of competition and its first season under coach Eric Parker.
The Colts came up a win shy of making the state playoffs in 2012.
“There are bigger goals but we learned some things today about what we need to work on and where we need to get to beat this kind of team,” Parker said. “I’m excited about what they’ve done and what we’ve got coming back, and we’ve got some good eighth-graders coming up from North Whitfield (Middle School).
“Our future’s very bright. We’ve just got to work on fundamentals and get better at the little things. Once we’ve done that, we’ll be an excellent team.”
The only expected loss for the roster heading into the offseason is midfielder Luis Lee-Martinez, who is a senior. The rest of the starting lineup should remain intact, including Garcia, who finished the season with 27 goals.
“It’s been a good ride for us and I couldn’t be happier with the boys. They played their guts out tonight,” Parker said. “They’re already looking at what they’ve got to do to fix it in the future and come back to the playoffs next year.”