On a night when two perennial powerhouses battled for the first time this season, one team decidedly came out on top.
Clayton used great passing, a quick defense and multiple shots on goal to defeat West Johnston 5-0 Wednesday night. The win lifted the Comets to 10-3-1 overall and 5-1 in 4-A Greater Neuse Conference play. The loss dropped West to 5-6, 2-4.
Comet senior Ray Lines scored two goals on the night, while fellow senior Connor Jones added a goal and assisted on one of Lines scores. Goalie Jackson Keener stopped all of West Johnstons shots on goal, making a couple of great corner saves.
West goalie Luis Ceballos made six saves in the first half, but the Comets offensive attack proved too much in the second half. Ceballos allowed two goals in under three minutes to open the second frame, before giving way to backup Keith Smith.
[West] has a really strong middle, some very good players, and I told our guys they have to bring the ball out, said Clayton coach William Williams. If you bring the ball out wide and cross it, a player like Ceballos doesnt have a chance to make those saves.
When our balls went in, they looked like easy shots, but the work that got that easy shot is what counts. You can shoot outside all you want, but if youve got a good keeper making those saves, its not doing you any good.
But when you move the ball up, come down the side and push it, then its an easy tap in. You have to outwork a good team, and thats what we had to do tonight.
The game started out back and forth, with Clayton getting several shots on goal early. West would push inward but could not get break through the Comet defense. Claytons ability to see the field and to complete good passes and turns allowed for a lot of the early momentum.
I felt like we were getting spread a lot tonight, said Wildcat coach Kenneth Sweat. Our backline and our other two lines were getting spread defensively, and I think that just opened up a lot of space for [Clayton]. Theyre talented enough to where anybody when they have some space they can make good decisions with the ball. We couldnt get anything going offensively. Wed make some runs forward, but it really fell apart.
Jones got the scoring started with a great header into the net over an outstretched Ceballos with 28 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats had nine shots on goal in the first half, with Keener denying any goals. Clayton manufactured 19 first-half shots, with Lines scoring the second Comet goal with three minutes remaining. Jones drove along the backline and dumped the ball out front of the net, with Lines punching it into the lower right corner.
I thought we missed a few chances in the first half, Williams said. I knew they were a good team and that they werent going to give up. We lost here last year, so I knew they were gonna push hard. I think it really helped when we got that goal there at the end of the first half. We came out hard today, and we came really strong.
The second half was almost a mirror of the first, with Clayton gaining decisive momentum with a couple of key goals against Ceballos. Sophomore Brandon Sainz drove in a goal kick nine minutes into the half. A short time later, Comet sophomore Nick Brown lined one just over Ceballos in the left corner net.
Greyson Colcough finished up the scoring with a front kick past backup goalie Brown.
Right now, we just gotta keep it together, Sweat said. I think the big thing is we have got to score a lot more goals. Were not gonna win any 1-0 games. We cant just step back and build ourselves up defensively. We have to commit to our offense.