Rocky Mount Academy and Faith Christian have made a habit of playing low-scoring, highly defensive games in which a few chances determine the outcome.
The two stayed true to form Tuesday, but the Patriots were able to take advantage of a precious scoring chance and see out the result.
Faith Christian topped Rocky Mount Academy, 1-0, at Faith Christian in a game that saw only seven shots on goal.
“That’s how it usually is between us,” Faith Christian coach Tyler Hendricks said. “No matter the competition level, no matter the records, it’s always a close game. I think the pressure builds with both teams.”
Rocky Mount Academy (4-8-1, 3-8-1 Eastern Plains Independent Conference) controlled the early portion of the game but couldn’t beat Faith Christian goalkeeper Matthew Sanderford with a pair of chances.
The Patriots (13-7-1, 4-7 EPIC) didn’t attempt a shot in the game’s opening 15 minutes, but one chance was all they needed.
A long ball played ahead to forward Dustin Hendricks became a race between Hendricks and Rocky Mount Academy goalkeeper Zach Fulcher, and Hendricks was able to poke it away near the top of the 18-yard box. With the ball free and the goal open, Hendricks then outran the Eagles’ back line and tapped it home for a 16th-minute goal.
Hendricks’ goal was his 42nd of the year, which tied the school record for goals in a season.
With two highly-defensive teams, the early tally proved significant.
“I think we both play good defense and have good defensive teams,” Rocky Mount Academy coach Larry Smith said. “Sometimes, it’s that one bounce either way.”
The Eagles nearly equalized four minutes after the Patriots took the lead. Rocky Mount Academy won a free kick near the sideline to the goalkeeper’s right, and a good cross found an Eagle at the six-yard box only to see the attempt sail over the bar.
Rocky Mount Academy had a few brief spells of attack shortly thereafter – though nothing dangerous – only to be held without a shot for nearly half an hour midway through the game.
Rocky Mount Academy finished with one shot on goal in the second half.
“Communication kind of picked up in the second half, and we started playing more aggressive,” Faith Christian defender Noah Gilley said. “We gave a lot of effort and brought a lot of energy, and we were able to hold them to only one shot.”
Dangerous counterattacks by the Eagles were neutralized by the Patriots’ defense, and the few opportunities the Eagles did muster yielded nothing.
“Our defense is pretty solid. They work together really well. They communicate really well,” Tyler Hendricks said. “If one comes out, the other covers for him, and so we always have tat line back there. That’s really a strong point of our team.”
The Patriots didn’t create hardly any attacking flair either, but with the lead, Faith Christian was content to keep the ball mired in the middle third.
Rocky Mount Academy’s best chance to score in the second half came off a near own-goal by Faith Christian in the 79th minute, but the resulting corner kick was cleared.
“It was a hectic game, and whenever it gets frenetic like that, it’s whoever comes through in the end,” Smith said. “It was a whoever-is-left-standing game.”
Faith Christian 1
Rocky Mount Academy 0
Goals: Dustin Hendricks 16’.
Shots (On Target): RMA: 11 (4). FCS: 8 (3).
Saves: Matthew Sanderford (FCS) - 4; Zach Fulcher (RMA) - 3.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org