BAILEY – In its quest to win the school’s first ever Big East boys’ soccer championship, Southern Nash knew it would have to surpass both of the Wilson County schools in the conference.
After another victory to pad their lead, the Big East is the Firebirds’ to lose.
Southern Nash defeated Wilson Fike, 3-0, Wednesday at Southern Nash High School to keep their perfect Big East record intact.
“We have to keep it up for the next four games,” Southern Nash coach John Matthews said. “We don’t want to let anybody get in the games, because when we’re playing Fike or (Wilson) Hunt, it could be lopsided in their favor if we’re not ready to play.”
Southern Nash (9-4-1, 6-0 Big East) has a two-game lead on the conference field and looks poised to earn the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament.
The Golden Demons (7-6-1, 3-3) started a trend Wednesday that likely will continue against Southern Nash: They went defensive.
The Firebirds won the first meeting, 5-1, propelling Golden Demons coach Toni Varacchi to change her formation and move around a few players.
The Demons defended well for most of the game, but with a lack of presence in the midfield, good chances were few and far between.
“We normally play a diamond (on defense), but we went to a flat back line and moved our center-mid lower,” Varacchi said. “It helped us defend, but it hurt our offense. You have to take the good with the bad when making changes.”
An eye infection to their regular goalkeeper forced the Golden Demons to make a switch, and a pressing Southern Nash side used its unrelenting pressure to score first.
A simple through ball was played too far for Nilton Perez, but Perez continued to apply pressure, causing the goalkeeper to misplay the run and leave the ball unconvered in the box.
Perez took one touch off the mistake and fired into the wide-open goal, giving the Firebirds a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
“We like to start with the ball and get forward right away,” Southern Nash midfielder Moises Gonzalez said. “It lets them know that we’re going to pressure them all game.”
Southern Nash dominated at all three levels and in all three areas of the field, outshooting the Golden Demons by a three-to-one margin.
With its midfielders supporting in defense, Fike relied mostly on counter-attacks and balls over the top, which Southern Nash’s back line quelled easily to keep danger away from goalkeeper Will Liles.
Despite controlling possession, the Firebirds were in a fight until they finally tacked on two more goals in the second half, both off set pieces.
Tristan Marshall struck a ball just inside the post off a corner kick, then Gonzalez buried a free kick shortly after.
“Our intensity wasn’t there right away,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t high enough, but as we got going, it got better. Then we were fine.”
Southern Nash can clinch the regular season title with wins against Northern Nash and Wilson Hunt next week.
“This was close to a must-win game for us,” Matthews said. “If we can keep it going, we’ll be looking pretty good.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com