FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
BETHEL – Playing through a cold and blistery wind Wednesday night wasn't a problem for the Tarboro Vikings as they traveled to Bethel to play the North Pitt Panthers in the first round of the NCHSAA state 2-A soccer playoffs. The wind and cold air didn't seem to bother the Vikings, but the Panthers offensive attack did as they shutout Tarboro 4-0 and eliminated them from the playoffs.
This was the third time this year that the Panthers defeated the Vikings. North Pitt defeated Tarboro two times in Eastern Plains Conference action earlier in the season with both games going to double overtime with Tarboro losing 1-0 twice.
Tarboro played up to Tarboro head coach Leshaun Jenkins expectations in the first half, but in the second half things unfolded and Jenkins was none to pleased with his teams defensive effort as they seem to have gave up.
"We played well the first half and in the second half we just came out with our heads down," Jenkins said. "I won't say we just stopped playing I think the momentum just shifted in their favor."
North Pitt jumped on the Vikings early after two missed opportunities by Tarboro gave the Panthers the momentum and they took advantage of it and scored in the eighth minute of the match.
Tarboro sophomore Joey Lancaster had a one on one chance in the fourth minute of the match when he beat a Panther defender around the left side and dribbled towards the goal. The North Pitt goalie came out to defend Lancaster and left the goal wide open, but Lancaster's shot deflected off of the goalie and went above the goal. Two minutes later he missed another chance. The Panthers took advantage of the second missed shot and began to control the tempo of the match. They began to pass the ball and found open gaps that allowed them to pressure the Vikings defense. With eight minutes gone in the match, Panther forward Dillon Bowen found an opening and received a pass from his right wing. Bowen controlled the ball and punched it in past Tarboro goalie Travis Martin to give North Pitt a 1-0 lead.
After the score, Tarboro took the momentum back from the Panthers, but couldn't cash in on numerous chances. They had two direct kicks which they didn't convert on and it costed them. Both teams took 10 shots apiece in the first half as Tarboro trailed 1-0 at halftime.
With 20 minutes left in the first half Tarboro lost one of their key defenders, Matthew Parker, after he was kneed in the inside part of his leg. Jenkins had to carry Parker off the field.
Jenkins told his team at halftime to keep fighting and not to give up. He said the opportunities would come on offense if they just kept working.
In the second half, the Vikings defense fell apart and allowed North Pitt to score three unanswered goals, which wasn't pleasing to Jenkins as he paced the sidelines asking why did the defense allow that to happen to them.
With 30 minutes left in the match, Jose Delgadillo one touched the ball in the back of the net on an open opportunity to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Four minutes later Delgadillo took a penalty kick and Martin made a spectacular diving save, but Delgadillo got the rebound and flipped it in to give the Panthers a 3-0.
Before the penalty kick, Jenkins told his defenders to make sure they sprinted to the goal after the shot, because the ball may deflect off of Martin's hands and they needed to clear it. His team didn't respond and North Pitt took advantage.
Three minutes after the third goal, Vikings senior Brian Winchester received a yellow card for shoving a Panther player and the Panther player received one as well.
With seven minutes to play in the match, Bowen threw the ball in from the Panthers sideline and Octavio Alonso got his head on it and flicked it past Martin's extended arms to give North Pitt a 4-0 lead.
Jenkins believes his team beat themselves in the second half, because of the lack of the defensive effort that he is used to seeing from his team.
"I believe in fighting until the end regardless of the situation," Jenkins said. "We gave up and I don't like that. We could have been down by 30 and I still would have been coaching like I always do. I don't give up on these guys and I didn't want them to give up on me."
Jenkins said he has tried to instill that into his players during the course of the season, because no matter what he just doesn't believe in giving up.
After the match, Jenkins spoke to his team about the loss. He talked about his five seniors and what they have meant to the program during their years playing under him.
Tarboro finishes the season 8-8-2. This was the twelfth consecutive year that Tarboro has made the playoffs under Jenkins.