By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s men’s soccer team remained undefeated with a pair of road Mountain Six Conference wins last week.
The Mustangs (6-0-2, 6-0) edged Franklin 2-1 on Feb. 22 and blanked Pisgah 7-0 two days later.
“Anytime you take that bus back over Cowee to Sylva with a win you have to be excited,” Coach Stephen Brown said. “It meant a little bit more this year with us contending for a conference championship. We knew it was going to be a fight. Franklin was coming off a tough loss (2-1) to Hendersonville.”
SM led 1-0 at halftime after Hunter Pressley’s goal in the 29th minute. The play started with his throw-in, which bounced back to him, and he shot from about 23 yards out.
Billy Ramirez made it 2-0 in the 55th minute with a double assist from Caleb Milkey and Caleb Handy. The shot came from 13 yards out.
“It was a great combination pass,” Brown said. “Milkey played a through ball in on the right side. Handy ran onto it and laid off a pass through the penalty box. Billy just cranked it. There’s no way the keeper could have stopped it.”
The Panthers got on the board when Luis Torres scored from 8 yards out in the 58th minute.
“They are very good at counter attacks,” Brown said. “He was able to shake a defender and was one on one with the goalkeeper.”
Franklin held a 10-7 edge in shots. Carson Seagraves made eight saves for the Mustangs, and Issac Jennings had two for the Panthers.
“We didn’t play flawless soccer, but we got the job done,” Brown said. “I was proud of the effort.”
Seagraves was a last minute replacement for the injured Nathan Porter.
“I can’t help but admire him and his attitude,” Brown said of Seagraves. “He played a great 80 minutes.”
SM dominated Pisgah 31-4 in shots in the game at Canton. Porter returned to action and had one save. Alex Armaraz of the Bears made four saves.
The shot differential was similar to the first meeting, but the scoreboard was much different from the Mustangs’ 1-0 victory in that contest.
“Our goal going into the game was being more efficient with our chances,” Brown said. “We could have taken advantage of more chances, but it was much better than the first game. We probably possessed the ball the best we have all season.”
An own goal opened the scoring at the 3:37 mark as Andrew Roach played a ball in that deflected off a Pisgah defender into the net.
Milkey made it 2-0 at the 12:12 mark with an assist from Handy.
“Handy did a great job playing without the ball,” the coach said. “He got into the attack and crossed it to Milkey, who had a great finish from 10 yards.”
A goal from Billy Ramirez with an assist from Milkey upped the margin to 3-0 at the 14:49 mark.
“Milkey crossed it from the right flank,” Brown said. “Billy took a touch and blasted one from about 15 yards out.”
The halftime lead was 4-0 after Handy scored at 24:18 with an assist from Mauricio Hernandez.
“Mauricio got the ball in the middle of the field and played a nice through ball to Handy who was one on one with the keeper,” Brown said.
Camden Myers scored from 8 yards out at the 56:51 mark for 5-0 advantage. Handy and Pressley provided assists.
“Hunter played a give and go with Handy, and Hunter put it into the penalty area,” the coach said. “It deflected off a defender and landed at Camden’s feet.”
Kobe Coggins scored the final two goals. The first came from 40 yards out with nine minutes left. Ten minutes later he had a header from 5 yards with an assist from Caleb Borchelt.
“Kobe collected the ball off a rebound and sent it in,” Brown said of his first goal. “It bounced once and went over the goalkeeper’s head.”
As for the final goal, the coach said, “Borchelt crossed the ball in from the left, and Kobe freed himself from the defender.”
He noted some players were brought up from the JVs and at one point there were eight sophomores on the field.
“We were able to give some guys some playing time,” Brown said. “It was a good game to be able to work on some things and give some guys some experience.”