BOONVILLE — In an epic bout between Starmount and Mount Airy Saturday, ten turned out to be the magic number.
Playing with ten men for the final 50 minutes, Mount Airy senior Jeremy Chappell, wearing No. 10, put it in the upper 90 for the go-ahead goal as the Granite Bears hung on for a 2-1 win. With the win, the Granite Bears punched a ticket to the regional final for the first time in program history.
“We just wanted it so bad, and our whole team came together with big hearts and just fought through it, and I’m so glad that goal went in; it was the shot of a lifetime,” Chappell said.
Scoreless with just under ten minutes remaining in the first half, senior Daniel Ballard was issued a red card, stealing away any momentum the Granite Bears had gained until time expired, as the team had to play without one of its best defenders. However, much like Starmount, Mount Airy’s offense continued to be strong.
“I do crazy things in practice, like sometimes we’ll play 12 against nine, just to understand that we may have to face that sometime,” said Mount Airy head coach Will Hurley.
Within the first minute of the second half, Mount Airy capitalized on a defensive lapse to score the first goal of the game. Starmount did not go down without a fight, as junior Jeyson Pineda and Andres Ocampo both came extremely close to finding the back of the net.
As the sense of urgency rose, Pineda, now holder of the school record for single-season goals, finally broke through. Falling in the box, Pineda showed no quit, getting back up, recovering the ball and poking it past the keeper. For the next ten minutes, Starmount owned the tilt, but could not get the go-ahead goal, as junior Jesus Orozco made three game-saving saves while the Rams crashed the box.
“I told him going in, ‘You have to play the game of your life,’ and he did. He threw his body everywhere,” Hurley said.
While one team moves on, another comes up just short, and while it’s unfortunate that the high school careers of Erick Teodoro and Vicente Adame have to come to an end, there’s plenty of reason for optimism for the future. Most of the team next year will be upperclassmen, with seven seniors as opposed to this year’s two. Of those seven, Jeyson Pineda, Juan Mora and Salomon Maya were all named to the All-Conference team.
“These juniors are something special. We’ve got to work with our younger ones… but the juniors have matured so much this year and I think they’re going to have a spectacular senior season and they’re going to go far,” Zamora said.
Starmount Head Coach Edgar Zamora also seems optimistic for the future of the Mount Airy program.
“That second goal, is a spark of brilliance, the way he hit that ball,” Zamora said. “I honestly think they’ll win state, if you ask me. I’d be interested to see a team that can beat them.”
Mount Airy plays Community School of Davidson Tuesday night at 7 p.m. for a spot in the 1A state championship game.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.