Chances were fairly even, possession was split and the two sides were close to equally matched.
Finishing, though, was far from level, and Rocky Mount High found itself on the wrong end of the scale in a 2-0 loss to Wilson Hunt on Tuesday at Rocky Mount High School.
“You have to net those prime opportunities, and when the other team does, it goes the other way,” Rocky Mount coach Drew Nick said. “I told the kids that I can give them all the answers to the test, but I can’t take it for you.”
Rocky Mount (3-5, 1-1 Big East Conference) played an even game with defending Big East champion Hunt (6-3-1, 1-1), but the Warriors were able to score two goals at the far post in the first half to decide the outcome.
Even after an early goal by sophomore Juan Rios, the Gryphons showed little flair for attacking. Rocky Mount was content to defend, and most attacks became one-or-two-man shows that fell apart.
Rocky Mount’s only real chance in the first half was their best chance all game. Junior forward David Aristazabal found himself alone six yards in front of Hunt goalkeeper Andrew Sorrell, but Aristazabal’s hard shot was right at Sorrell, who parried it away from danger.
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead five minutes later when a well-played cross from near the sideline to the goalkeeper’s left found an unmarked Juan Anguiano, who headed the ball home on the back post.
“The slow starts are killing us so far this year,” Rocky Mount junior winger Brandon Rotimi said. “In the first half we were just kind of knocking the ball around and not making runs, and it cost us.”
The Gryphons were a different squad after halftime.
The midfield began playing in all three thirds, and Rocky Mount created real chances.
The first good chance of the second half came in the 47th minute, when Duncan Carmichael’s cross found a well-positioned Rotimi in the 18-yard box. Rotimi played the ball to the far side, which beat Sorrell easily but went inches wide of the post.
With the Gryphons in need of a strike, Nick switched to an attack-minded 3-4-3, and Rocky Mount controlled the rest of the game.
“You have to adjust to other team, and the way it was going – it wasn’t working,” Nick said. “They won the first, I think we won the second half even though we didn’t score any goals, but like I told the kids: You need to play 80 minutes, not 40.”
Sorrell positioned himself well to stop Garrett Webb’s effort from the top of the box in the 48th minute, then collected a wide-open shot from Chris Jacobs at the top of the box two minutes later.
Despite its control of the second half, the Gryphons never broke through against the Warriors, who did well defending the lead.
Logan Barnes nearly scored a last-gasp free kick from almost midfield as time expired, but the ball went just high of the crossbar.
The Gryphons are confident their last touch will come around. For now, correcting their early-game trouble is their main focus.
“We have to go out there and want it from the start,” Rotimi said. “It’s a mental thing, and we have get over it.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com.