This year has been frustrating for Rocky Mount High thus far, but to the Gryphons’ credit, they know opportunity when they have it. There will be another day for the Gryphons.
No. 5 seed Rocky Mount advanced to the Big East Conference tournament semifinals by trumping fourth-seeded Northern Nash, 2-1, on Monday at Northern Nash High School.
“We didn’t want to end our season here against our biggest rival,” Rocky Mount coach Drew Nick said. “You still have to play the game, and we knew we had a chance. We just needed somebody to step up and put the ball in the net, and we got it.”
That role was fulfilled by junior midfielder Chris Jacob, whose two goals gave the Gryphons all the room they needed against a Knights squad missing four starters.
Rocky Mount forward David Aristazabal beat the right back in the 26th minute, and his low drive to Ben Roy’s left gave the Northern Nash goalkeeper with no choice but to deflect the ball away from the goal. The deflection fell to the feet of Jacob, who gave the Gryphons a 1-0 lead.
Jacob’s second goal was much more flashy. He received the ball off a clearance and volleyed it, sending it high in the air but putting a fierce dip on the ball, causing it to chip over Roy for a 2-0 lead.
“I just shot for the heck of it,” Jacob said. “I saw the defense coming at me to clear it up field, so I just got it out ... About halfway through the air, I asked myself, ‘Is that going in?’”
The two-goal advantage allowed Nick to replace an attacker with another defender, and Rocky Mount often played 10 men behind the ball for a nervy final 14 minutes.
Northern Nash cut the lead in half off a set piece in the 77th minute. Tucker Daughtridge’s corner found an unmarked Trent Flora, who made no mistake with his header.
The push came too late, however.
“The first half Rocky Mount outplayed us and wanted this game more,” Northern Nash coach Joe McCarthy said. “I challenged their heart at halftime, and thought that switched in the second half.”
The Gryphons will go on the road to play No. 1 seed Southern Nash at 5 p.m. today. Rocky Mount must win the tournament to make the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
“We don’t want our season to end,” Jacob said. “We have to play a full game (today), but we can do it.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or at firstname.lastname@example.org