SOUTHERN PINES — The Lumberton soccer team refused to fold.
Their top scorer out, trailing 2-0 with 30 minutes left to play against Pinecrest on Wednesday, the Pirates fought on.
“Instead of rolling over we just took it to them,” Lumberton defender and team captain Bradley Burnette said.
Using set-piece plays, the Pirates scored four unanswered goals in a 12-minute span to beat the Patriots 4-2 for Lumberton’s first win against the perennial powerhouse in 10 years.
“We kept at it and our guys really responded and lifted their game to another level,” said Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons. “I’m just so proud of the team.”
The Patriots (10-1-2, 5-1 SEC) entered the match ranked No. 8 in the state and hadn’t lost a match to a Southeastern Conference opponent since 2009. A conference title this year will be Pinecrest’s 18th straight. The Pirates (10-4, 5-1 SEC) are in position to share the conference championship if both teams win out.
Wednesday’s game utilized a game plan that Simmons said was executed “darn close” to perfection. It was ultimately a pair of seniors that got the game within reach.
Burnette played as a defensive anchor, and, as Lumberton’s only six-foot tall player, was also the main target on corner kicks from fellow senior Mahir Patel.
With 26 minutes left, he took the pass from Patel and headed it in. The duo connected again six minutes later to tie it.
In both cases, Burnette sent a blistering liner past the goalie.
“Bradley was just the man in there. He overpowered them,” Simmons said. “The power behind those headers was extraordinary.”
Burnette credited Patel with his placement on the passes, especially as he jostled for space with six defenders his height.
“He just put it on a silver platter,” Burnette said.
The head-on approach put Lumberton ahead three minutes later when Zach Von Rupp scored on a long throw-in from Jace Ward. A final header scored by Christian Valladarez made it 4-2 with 12 minutes left.
Simmons said the game played out similarly when the two played at Lumberton last month. In both, the Pirates trailed 1-0 at halftime and allowed an early goal in the second half.
“The difference tonight was that even in the face of adversity, it was a different attitude,” Simmons said. “We didn’t fold.”
That included the final 10 minutes, when the Patriots pushed their players forward in an offensive assault.
“We basically had to weather the storm,” Simmons said.
At the center of it was goalie Ricardo Leal, who recorded three of his nine saves in the closing minutes.
“He was exceptional in the last 10 minutes of the game,” Simmons said.
Pinecrest scored the game’s first goal shortly before halftime on a ball from Michael Tzavales. Midfielder Gerardo Peraza scored the second goal on a penalty kick that followed a scramble in the box shortly after halftime.
Lumberton’s last win against Pinecrest came in 2003, when the Pirates won 1-0 in Southern Pines on a goal from Kenny Simmons’ son Corey. The Pirates and Patriots were in different conferences for that matchup.
Burnette said the seniors on the team were especially motivated knowing Wednesday could be their last shot against Pinecrest and the win put it all in perspective.
“All the times that we’ve said ‘Hey, we can beat Pinecrest’ but came up short,” Burnette said. “We talked the talk, we can walk the walk. We finally beat so-called dynasty in our conference.”
The win puts Lumberton in line for a shared regular season conference championship, should the Pirates win out.
The next two weeks include matches with Hoke, Richmond and Scotland, all of which will challenge Lumberton’s bid for the title.
“We knew it was going to take us beating Pinecrest,” Simmons said. “Now we’ve got to take care of business for ourselves.”