West Forsyth’s boys soccer team hasn’t won a lot of games this season, but it’s winning the ones that count.
Ranier Lopez’s corner kick hooked in with just over three minutes remaining Tuesday night, and goalkeeper Bryce Billington stopped a 45-yard desperation attempt as the clock expired to give the Wolverines a 2-1 victory against county and region rival North Forsyth in Raider Valley.
West (2-5 overall, 2-0 Region 6-AAAAA) entered the night with an overall record of 1-5 — its lone victory coming in the region opener against Northview.
But strength of schedule has been one of the biggest reasons the Wolverines have struggled early this season. West’s five losses have come against teams with a combined record of 30-4-2.
“Our schedule, I’d put it up against anyone in the state as far as toughness,” Wolverines coach Jason Bayush said. “The way we look at it is, West Forsyth soccer, we want to get better, so we want to play the best teams.”
Despite plenty of shots on goal by both teams Tuesday night, West ended up in a low-scoring struggle with North (4-3-2, 0-2).
Billington was forced into action in the second minute and made a leaping save on a header by Sam Melgar.
West pressured the goal throughout the first 40 minutes, but North goalkeeper Alex Hanson saved each attempt that came his way. Hanson stopped four shots during a seven-minute stretch late in the opening half, and the two teams entered the break in a scoreless tie.
“When you play hard and control the game for the first 35 minutes on their half of the field, it’s frustrating when you’re not getting [goals],” Bayush said.
“Their goalie played a heck of a game; we just didn’t get the bounces. Those will come our way at some point and things will change.”
The Wolverines finally broke through in the 60th minute when John Newman sent a shot from 15 yards out on the left side of the field into the bottom right corner of the net.
West’s lead barely lasted two minutes, as North’s Ethan Bollinger put a shot in the top right corner of the net from the middle of the field 25 yards away.
The game appeared headed for overtime until a routine corner kick by Lopez hooked into the net with 3:03 on the clock.
Billington made two saves in the final three minutes, including a long shot from J.T. Johnson as the game ended.
“I thought the teams were evenly matched,” North coach Jack Maynard said.
“It could have gone either way. It’s going to come down to a little bit of luck on their behalf to [have the ball] go straight in from a corner, that’s not something that happens a lot.”
North will try to earn its first region win March 20 (8 p.m.) on the road against Alpharetta. West travels to Jekyll Island later this week for non-region contests against St. Pius X, Dunwoody and Wheeler, which have a combined record of 16-3.
“[This win] puts us in the driver’s seat [in the region] as far as we’re concerned,” Bayush said.
“Two region wins, that’s huge, so we’re moving forward.”
Follow Jared Putnam on Twitter @jaredputnam