Billy Ramirez

Smoky Mountain’s Billy Ramirez takes the ball toward the goal in Saturday’s 1-0 state playoff loss to Surry Central. 

By Carey Phillips


Edgar Vega scored with 19:45 left in the game Saturday giving 11th-seeded Surry Central a 1-0 win over sixth-seeded Smoky Mountain in the second round of the state 2-A soccer playoffs at Carr Hooper Stadium/Babe Howell Field.

“The ball ended up in the box on the right side,” Coach Stephen Brown said. “We had a missed clearance. He got the ball on the right side, and we didn’t clear it. It was a beautiful shot. He hit it in the upper 90 to the far post.”

The Mustangs finished the season 18-6-1. The program has never been past the second of the state playoffs.

“I’ve been around this program since I was 8 years old,” Brown said. “We can’t get that second-round monkey off our backs. We had so many chances to get on the board, but we just weren’t able to do it.”

The Golden Eagles had a 13-7 advantage in shots. SM’s Zeb Sink made five saves, and Surry’s Johnny Garcia had two.

“We had two or three shots hit off the post,” Brown said. “We had our chances, but they had some chances too. They controlled chunks of the second half.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our boys,” he said. “Our charge was to leave it all on the field no matter what happens, and they did that.”

He was appreciative of the crowd support.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a crowd like that for a soccer match,” he said. “We are so thankful to the community for coming out and supporting us.”

The coach was pleased with how far the team came this year.

“Going into this season we had lost our entire back line, except for Zeb, and 65 percent of our scoring,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our boys. A lot of them stepped into new roles, and they exceeded expectations.”

Mustangs win on PK

Dawson Karup converted a penalty kick with 5:18 left in the game giving the Mustangs a 1-0 win over 27th-seeded Bandys at home in the first round Nov. 6.

It was the program’s first playoff victory since 2013.

“As the saying goes, you survive and advance,” Brown said. “That’s what we did. I felt we put ourselves in great opportunities, especially in the second half. We kept knocking on the door with corner kicks and deep throw-ins. We just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The PK came after Karup was fouled in the box.

“At the end of the day, it just takes one sometimes, and we took advantage of that chance,” Brown said. “Dawson got fouled, and he put it in.”

SM had an 11-9 edge in shots. Sink made two saves for the Mustangs, and Jesse Pope had five for the Trojans.

“It was a little ugly at times for both teams, but we were pleased with the result,” the coach said. “I was proud of the way the boys endured the ebbs and flows of the game.”

He expressed appreciation for the crowd support.

“We had tons of people come out,” Brown said. “We had amazing support from our community and students.”