By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
There were stretches of time within each of Tuesday night’s soccer games at Forsyth Central High School when neither the Bulldogs or South Forsyth appeared to have clear and discernible control of the match.
Each game featured first-place teams within the region, in the Central girls and South boys. Both games saw significant chunks of hard-fought, scoreless soccer scattered throughout with possession changes, free kicks, sliding saves and physical slide tackles.
Each time, however, the front-running teams of the region gradually wore down their respective opponents, both finishing their games in the same way they had started: in first place.
For the first 20 minutes of the night, the South girls gave the visiting Bulldogs everything they could handle. A few seconds later, a high, arcing deflection off of a throw-in landed smack-dab in the middle of a mix of players. Central’s Allie Hildebrant got to it first, heading it in front of teammate Hannah Hamilton, who fired in the one and only goal of her team’s eighth-straight win.
“I just knew there was a bunch of bouncing around, so I thought I’d go ahead and make the run in,” Hamilton said. “Thankfully Allie headed it to me, and I got a foot on it. I was just making the right run at the right time.”
In addition to maintaining firm control of the region, Central’s season sweep of the War Eagles earned them an extra perk on the side.
“(Central principal Mitch) Young said that if they beat South both times and were top-two in the region, he would cook them a steak dinner at his house,” Central head coach Angela Camp said.
Winning streaks, region standings and steak dinners aside, Camp and her squad very clearly have their sights set squarely on the remaining games between them and the state playoffs.
“They’re just very focused on the goal at hand,” Camp said. “Do the best we can in our region, make it to state and see what happens.”
A week after snatching first-place from Lambert in PKs, the South boys found themselves locked in a 0-0 battle with Central nearly 40 minutes in.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, South defender PJ Mollenauer took a free kick 35 yards out from the Central goal and kicked a howitzer-like shot over the reaching fingers of goalkeeper Juan Gonzalez and into the back of the net.
“I knew that we needed to get something on target and let our guys try and fight for it,” Mollenauer said. “It just went where it needed to go, and we got lucky there.”
Eight minutes into the second half, Chris Mendelson made a gorgeous turn while tangled with a defender, spinning to his left inside of the box and flicking the ball into the space just vacated by the charging Gonzalez.
“It was a good ball by (Andrew) Shah, but it had a little bit of pace on it,” Mendelson said. “I just recognized the defenders that were around me and just made that turn. I’ve practiced it a few times, and it paid off.”
Lorenzo Betti added a third goal midway through the half, and head coach Tom Braun’s freshly first-place squad notched a seventh region win, with two more matches on the docket.
“Yeah we have our moments,” Braun said. “Anybody can beat anyone at any given time. There’s no guarantee of anything. We still need to improve on a few little things and hopefully we’ll continue to get better.”