With a chance to take the outright lead in the race for the Big East Conference championship, Southern Nash needed a sense of urgency Monday.
If the Firebirds had it, the desire didn’t show until the final 15 minutes.
Only when Wilson Hunt carried a two-goal lead into the final minutes did Southern Nash show fight, but it was unable to recover from the first 65 minutes of lackadaisical play and uninspired offense.
Southern Nash rallied to score just one goal – on an tremendous individual effort by Ben Liles – and lost, 2-1, to Wilson Hunt at Southern Nash High School.
“They controlled pretty much the whole field,” first-year Southern Nash coach Kurt Bienias said. “I don’t think there was any part of the field that we controlled (Monday).”
With a giant gap in the middle third of the field, Wilson Hunt (6-4-2, 3-0-0 Big East) was able to counterattack quickly, and although Southern Nash had the majority of the scoring chances through the first half, the Warriors had by far the better quality.
Wilson Hunt hit the crossbar once and the post twice in the first half alone, including the opening goal when Wilson Hunt forward Ernesto Blanco beat Firebirds’ goalkeeper Will Liles’ outstretched hand.
“Now, we’ve got a leg up,” Wilson Hunt coach Scott Summers said of his team being the only unbeaten squad left in the conference. “We’ve got to take this momentum and keep moving forward.”
Southern Nash (8-3-0, 2-1-0) had its chances, including eight corner kicks, but the vast majority of the Firebirds’ attempts sailed wide of the target.
Southern Nash, which ran most of its offense exclusively through Moises Gonzalez and Ismael Rodriguez, was unable to generate a shot on target on any of its corner set pieces.
“Our chances were all over the place,” Bienias said. “... Sometimes this team relies too much on one or two people, and they get excited when the ball comes to them.”
As the Firebirds, who were out shot by Wilson Hunt, 13-9, became more aggressive by changing into a three-forward formation, the Warriors were able to counter.
Wilson Hunt didn’t have a consistent attack all game, but the Warriors were able to put together deep runs and produce excellent scoring chances. In the 68th minute, Juan Anguiano found his way into the 18-yard box and left the ball for Blanco, who easily finished past Will Liles.
“We just played as a team,” Summer said. “We defended as a team. We attacked as a team. Southern Nash is a great team, and to come out with a win against them is great.
“It can go either way. It’s whoever is on. Our boys turned it up and we played 20 minutes hard. We finished two opportunities and that helped us out.”
The only signs of life for the Firebirds came in the final minutes following Ben Liles’ effort-filled score.
Liles broke through four defenders and beat the Wilson Hunt goalie to the ball, sneaking it underneath him with 6:47 to play.
“It was just effort,” he said. “I was just trying to get there first, before they did.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org