By VAN HOLLAND
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Tarboro coach Leshaun Jenkins knows what it's like to succeed in the playoffs, because he has been there before.
Wednesday before the fourth seeded Vikings first round NCHSAA 1-A state playoff match, he challenged his team to play with heart and through adversity, as well as communicate on the field.
His team followed the script to near perfection and were able to defeat the Gates County Red Barons 2-0, behind a top-notch performance from junior Joey Lancaster, who scored a goal and added an assist.
"I thought we played tough the whole match," Jenkins said. "I told them that it was key if we could get a couple of quick goals and we did."
Jenkins told his team that if they wanted to control the tempo of the match, then they needed to be up by three goals at the half. They didn't quite make it there, but were close at the half.
"We didn't get that third goal before the half, but we had the chances to do it," Jenkins said. "I'd be very discouraged at this point in the season if we didn't have any shots on goal by halftime."
There was no need for him to be discouraged, because Tarboro took 18 shots on goal in the first half, 36 in the match, and controlled the tempo the majority of the match. Gates County didn't get a shot on goal until the 30th minute in the match.
Tarboro was able to play through Jenkins' system and work the ball back through the defense back to the offense when the Red Barons would move the ball on Tarboro's side of the field.
"I like the fact that we had that many chances to score in the first half," Jenkins said. "There are a few things we need to do a better job of, but it was a good win for us."
Just 10 minutes into the match, Lancaster split two Gates County defenders and broke towards the left side of the goal and switched feet and scored off of a left footed shot that squeezed between the goalie and goal post to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
"Joey has been playing exceptional for us lately," Jenkins said. "He's carried our offense and has come into his own. I am super proud of him, because this is where I expected him to be a year ago."
Three minutes later, Tarboro had a corner-kick opportunity and Lancaster made the most of that, but not before Jenkins had to get his players in the right position. The main player Jenkins was yelling at was sophomore Staton Durpree. Jenkins told Dupree to move into the penalty box and go up for the challenge on the header. Dupree followed his coaches instructions and caught Lancaster's corner-kick just right from 30-feet out and headed the ball over the outstretched arms of the Red Barons goalie to give Tarboro the 2-0 lead.
"Staton had been playing really well in practice and I've been on his case about transforming his practice performance over into a game," Jenkins said. "I had to get him in the right position, but he was there and was able to score off the header."
Jenkins told his team before the match that a coach would be washing uniforms after the match to put them away until next season and he said it wasn't going to be them.
He was right, because they will host Spring Creek in the second round of the playoffs Saturday at Indian Lake Sports Complex. Spring Creek is the fifth seed and beat Perquimans 10-2 Wednesday. The time has yet to be determined.