Crusaders romp over rival Falcons
Lee Christian versus Grace Christian - again. The Falcons and Crusaders came into the early-season county-rivalry soccer match having won Carolina Christian Conference matches on Tuesday by identical scores of 10-1.
In fact, Lee Christian had scored 18 goals in their last two matches, but the Falcons were unable to get a goal on the Crusaders’ home field Friday afternoon. Grace Christian prevailed 9-0 in a match which ended after 14 minutes of play in the second half.
Over the almost 20 years these schools have competed against one another in high school athletics, there have been stretches where one side dominated the other in various sports. Most recently, Grace Christian has had the upper hand in boys' soccer. This is in large part because of the squads Crusader head coach Chris Pratt has been building over the last few seasons.
“My guys are playing well 11 games into the season. This is by far the best team I’ve coached for the first 11 games,” Pratt said.
From the opening kickoff, Grace Christian played a fast-pace, attacking style of soccer. In the third minute, Lee Christian keeper Brent Godfrey punched a ball away from his goal in the Crusaders' first scoring threat of the match.
Pratt recognized the play of two of Lee Christian’s players.
“I was very impressed with No. 10 (Ju Hyup Jin) for Lee Christian – he’s a solid player, very solid. And Brent did a great job as their keeper," Pratt said.
Godfrey, however, was not able to stop Jose Leonidez’s shot in the seventh minute that found the back of Lee Christian’s net for the first score in the match. Jose was assisted on the goal by his older brother, Salvador Leonidez. That assist was the first of four assists Salvador had in the contest.
Pratt is very aware of Salvador’s important role for his team.
“Salvador – he’s just my creator. He went from playing forward last year to now playing center mid with his brother," he said. Several colleges are considering Salvador for a spot on their team next year, according to Pratt.
With the Falcons unable to maintain sustained possession of the ball, much less create many scoring opportunities, the Crusaders did not waste any time in getting their second goal. Salvador Leonidez assisted on Ricardo Castanedas’ goal in the ninth minute.
Lee Christian hunkered down on defense, and with some nice saves by Godfrey in goal, the Falcons were able to prevent another Grace Christian goal until the 28th minute. Following a handball called on Lee Christian, Isaac Kruger delivered a ball on the ground from about 25 yards away from goal that found its way through the Falcons’ defensive wall to the foot of Nathan Holt who had made an attacking run from the left side. Holt finished with one touch that slipped past Godfrey, putting the Crusaders ahead 3-0.
“I liked the movement of the ball and the movement of my players into space today. We finished well, which we’ve been struggling to do. That was good," Pratt said.
By halftime, the Crusaders had added two more goals to make the score 5-0. In the 37th minute Evan Kannarr, with the assist from Sergio Charco, scored Grace Christian’s fourth goal. With 45 seconds left in the half, Castanedas scored his second goal.
Kannarr scored twice in the first four minutes of the second half, off assists by Salvador Leonidez and Castanedas, to complete a hat trick.
Pratt was pleased with Kannarr’s play in the contest.
“Evan finally started doing his thing a little bit," he said. "He’s about 20 goals away from breaking the record for school. He just works hard. He’s a senior – he’s played four years for me. I’m proud of him.”
Kruger scored in the 48th minute from Salvador Leonidez’s fourth assist, and Zach Boggs rounded out the scoring in the 54th minute with the assist from Holt.
Despite the outcome of Friday’s match, Lee Christian coach Wesley Seawell is confident his team will continue to improve as the year progresses.
“It was a learning experience for our guys. Grace was just a lot faster than us. We’re definitely going to look forward to playing them again in the conference tournament championship game. We’re just gonna have to work hard and figure out what to do," Seawell said.
Lee Christian (2-2, 2-1) will have to regroup quickly for another CCC match Tuesday afternoon at Trinity Academy.
Grace Christian (8-2-1, 2-0-0) also has a CCC match, at Neuse Christian, on the road Tuesday.