Ryan Waliezer

Smoky Mountain’s Ryan Waliezer (right) races an East Henderson player to the ball in last week’s 6-2 win. The Mustangs went on to defeat Franklin in a shootout the next night to clinch the Mountain Six Conference championship.

Smoky Mountain prevails in shootout.

 

By Carey Phillips

 

Smoky Mountain clinched the Mountain Six Conference soccer championship with a shootout win at Franklin in the regular season finale Oct. 29.

The teams battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two five-minute overtimes before SM prevailed 4-2 in the shootout.

It is the program’s first league title since 2013.

The Mustangs (9-1, 17-5-1) are the West’s sixth seed in the state 2-A playoffs. They were scheduled to meet 27th-seeded Bandys (8-13) at home at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the first round. Results were not known at Herald press time.

An SM win would mean a home game Saturday against 11th-seeded Surry Central (14-8-1) or 22nd-seeded South Rowan (13-10) in the second round.

Should the Mustangs reach the third round for the first time in program history, the game would be Wednesday, Nov. 13. SM would be at third-seeded Forest Hills (20-3) or home against 14th-seeded West Stanly (10-11), 19th-seeded Forbush (16-7-1) or 30th-seeded Lake Norman Charter (6-13).

With rain in the forecast, the Franklin game was played one night earlier than scheduled.

“We didn’t want to share it with anybody,” Coach Stephen Brown said of winning the conference title outright. “It was a revenge match after Franklin knocked us off earlier in the year. It was an emotional game, and it was a storybook ending to our regular season.”

After a scoreless first half, the Panthers got on the board in the 42nd minute on Cris Chavez’s goal with an assist from Luis Gutierrez.

“He collected a through ball from Gutierrez and just got in behind our defense,” Brown said.

SM drew even about six minutes later when Shawn Byfield connected with an assist from Dawson Karup.

“Dawson took the ball around the 18 and dribbled through defenders toward the goal line and crossed it to Shawn, who was about 8 yards out,” Brown said. “Shawn streaked in and was able to bury it.”

In the shootout, Matthew Bullock, Noah Hinton and Luis Palacios found the back of the net for the Mustangs before Karup connected for the game-winner.

SM’s Zeb Sink made one save in the shootout, and another Franklin shot was off the mark.

Prior to the shootout, the Mustangs had a 15-8 advantage in shots. Only two Panther shots were on goal, and Sink had one save. Franklin’s Isaac Jennings made six saves.

“Our fans made the trip over Cowee,” Brown said. “It got a little chippy out there. It wasn’t pretty at times, but we found a way to get it done.”

The Mustang JVs ended the year 12-3-2 after a 2-2 tie.

SM held a 14-8 advantage in shots. Nathan Porter made two saves.

Sam Hudson scored with an assist from Zeke Sink, and Silas McPherson converted a penalty kick.

“We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” Coach Jonathan Parsons said. “We had several chances to score early in the game, and we had opportunities at the end of the game when it was tied where their goalie came up with some tremendous saves. It was a little disappointing, but the boys kept fighting.”

He added, “I’m tremendously pleased with our season. From the first day of tryouts to our final game we improved by leaps and bounds, not only as soccer players but as young men. We took a group of kids who had never played together. They were willing to buy in to our philosophy and approach, and we were rewarded with a tremendous season.”