NL soccer stays undefeated with first win vs. North Johnston since 2014

NL soccer stays undefeated with first win vs. North Johnston since 2014

North Lenoir's Orlando Gallardo makes a leaping save to thwart a North Johnston opportunity Wednesday. Photo by Leonardo Martinez / Special to Neuse News

LA GRANGE -- If there were any doubts of North Lenoir’s abilities, they were put to rest Wednesday.

The Hawks defeated North Johnston 2-1 in The Swamp to improve to 3-0-1 on the season. It was the first time in five tries North Lenoir picked up a win against the Panthers, dating back to a first-round playoff victory on Oct. 28, 2014.

“This would be the test to see what our potential was this season,” Hawks coach Chris Evans said. “We played awesome defense and I think this will be helpful overall — we know North Johnston is a great team and have kids who grow up playing soccer. We have guys who are more baseball and soccer — North Johnston’s athleticism was there, but ours was definitely there (Wednesday).”

North Lenoir made its presence felt in the fifth minute when Jerrin Howell was able to take a sharp shot past the goalkeeper and through the net for the 1-0 lead. The Hawks got four shots on goal before North Johnson (0-2-1) got its first, pressuring the net as the score remained unchanged at halftime.

“I sensed that if we got the opportunity to get ahead early, it would really boost morale,” Howell said. “The other team started getting tired, so we just had to keep going strong.”

Luis Henriquez extended the North Lenoir lead in the 49th minute, getting a rebound in a scrum in front of the North Johnston goal and scoring for the 2-0 advantage. From there, defense reigned supreme for the Hawks as the Panthers got more aggressive in the final 25 minutes. North Johnston finally scored in the 79th minute, but it was too late to catch up to the Hawks.

“Me and Peyton (Howard) talked the whole game and kept playing where the ball was going,” North Lenoir defender Zach Jenkins said. “Holding the line is important, but in this game we tried to play more aggressive defensively.

"Honestly, I’ve got to give it all to God — there’s no other way this could’ve happened.”

North Lenoir will be on the road for its next two games, facing Farmville Central Monday before traveling to Clinton a day later.

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