CONCORD – Seeded 26th in the West Region, the Central Cabarrus boys soccer team knew it would take a special effort to handle its assignment for the first round of the Class 3A playoffs: going to Gastonia to face a Forestview team that was the Big South 3A champion and seeded seventh in the field.
A special effort, however, is exactly what the Vikings delivered, as they fought their way to a 2-0 victory over the Jaguars Wednesday night.
Central Cabarrus (11-11) advanced to the second round for the second consecutive season and will travel to 10th-seeded Asheville A.C. Reynolds (19-3), which defeated Monroe Parkwood, 2-0, in the first round.
The Vikings benefitted from goals by Josh Mayre and Ivan Carachure Wednesday night, along with stellar overall defense from start to finish.
“It was a good night for us,” second-year Central Cabarrus coach Kendall Jackson said in a phone conversation with the Independent Tribune. “Honestly, it was the best we’ve played all year, because we finally put everything together, as far as a complete game.
“Forestview was a very good team -- very fast. But we limited our mistakes and really came together as a team, probably for the first time this year. And I feel like we played at the intensity level that we should’ve played at up to that point.”
The Vikings started the night off aggressively and controlled the game in the early stages, although the score was deadlocked , 0-0, for most of the first half. But in the first half’s late stages, Mayren knocked in his goal, and Central Cabarrus went into halftime with a 1-0 edge.
The Vikings kept up the intensity level in the second half, but the Jaguars also stepped up their play. That’s when the Vikings got a lift from their goalkeeper, Marco Medina, who got a crucial save on a penalty kick late in the second half to maintain his team’s lead.
About four minutes later, with 6 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the game, Carachure scored to give the Vikings a two-goal cushion, and they kept Forestview at bay the rest of the way.
Jackson expressed pride in his players for the way they stepped up on the road against a formidable opponent.
“The kids really seemed like they were really focused going into the game,” Jackson said, “and I feel like we’ve had kind of an issue with that this year – finding our focus early in games. This year, we’ve really come into some games too late. I think we really changed that. We jumped on them right from the start.”
Now, the challenge for Central Cabarrus is A.C. Reynolds, which finished in second place in the Western Mountain 3A Conference this season. After Wednesday night, however, Jackson believes his team has great confidence and momentum going into the Round 2 affair.
“I’m excited for the guys,” Jackson said. “We have no expectations going up to A.C. Reynolds. Actually, I think, in a way, that plays in our favor; we have nothing to lose. We can see what we can do to get a (positive) outcome.
“Hopefully, our experience with our guys being a veteran team – we have 11 seniors this year – will pay off for us.”