CLAYTON — Grant Austin said he had never had a hat trick in a soccer match.
But it didn’t take him long to get one Wednesday night, Oct. 16, against new Two Rivers 3A Conference rival Cleveland.
Austin scored three of the five goals Corinth Holders registered in the first 11 minutes and added an assist during the spree as the Pirates rolled to a 6-3 win over the Rams.
The win improved the Pirates, who were members of the Northern Carolina 2A last season, to 14-3-1, 7-1 in the new conference. Cleveland fell to 6-10-2 and 4-3-1. Both of the Johnston County schools are playing in their fourth season.
“We hit four of our first five shots,” said Corinth Holders coach Brent Walston, whose team beat the Rams 3-0 in their first meeting of the season on Sept. 30 in Wendell.
“You don’t expect to score on a percentage like that. The key to beat a good goalkeeper like Gio (Solis) is to bring the ball in and redirect. And we moved the ball extremely well from the beginning. He’s a senior and we’ve seen him for four years. For Grant to get three goals on four shots – that’s a good effort by the whole team. But to start a game with five goals in the first 12 minutes is almost unheard of.”
Zach Blinson scored the Pirates’ first goal less than five minutes in, hitting the right side of the goal on a cross from Pedro Segundo before Austin’s spree. Austin’s three goals and assist all came in a span of less than four minutes, with Jackson Creech scoring off Austin’s helper.
“Our team played great,” Austin said. “We knew Cleveland was a strong opponent and we had to come out with a lot of fire and fury. We were ready to play.
“My teammates gave me good through balls and early crosses. The defense and our goalkeeper (Christian Green) played great. It was just a good team effort. I was just glad I could help my team out.”
Cleveland, which was in the Eastern Carolina 3A last season, got back-to-back goals from Jhavonte Moon late in the first half to make it 5-2 at intermission.
“We just weren’t marking up on defense,” Cleveland coach Fabri Bonilla said. “They had free runs in the back with their forwards and their center mids. Nobody was marking up. They scored early and it led to an avalanche.
“Luckily some guys stepped up on defense, and we were able to stop the bleeding. We were able to keep it competitive in the second half. But Corinth Holders has great wings, and they can finish.”
Alan Landeros scored from the top of the box in the 57th minute to give the visitors a four-goal lead.
“I hadn’t scored in a few games myself,” Blinson said of the Pirates’ explosion. “We just found our chemistry up top. I was glad to put the first one in and set the tone for the rest of the game, but I didn’t think we’d get five goals in the first 12 minutes. ”
Taylor Costine finished the scoring for the Rams on Fed Planchon’s second assist of the game in the 67th minute.
“I think we put our heads down and stopped playing for a while after the first goal,” Moon said of the Rams’ play. “I was trying to lift everyone’s spirits up. I just tried to do the best I could to score goals.
“We can still make the playoffs. We just have to play like ourselves and not play the other team’s game.”