After a tough loss against Lakewood on Sept. 15, Princeton head coach Thomas Pilkington challenged his team during practice to come out and have a strong performance against Eastern Wayne on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs listened to their coach and responded with a thrilling 5-4 victory against Eastern Wayne to win their first game of the season. It was also the Neuse Six 2A Conference opener for both teams.
“I’m proud of them,” Pilkington said. “I’m proud of them for hanging in there and believing in the end.”
The Bulldogs (1-7-1 overall, 1-0) struck in the first in the 13th minute.
An Eastern Wayne (0-7-1) foul led to a Princeton free kick right outside the box. Joshua Greenup took the free kick that landed inside the box. Landon McKinley then collected the ball and buried it into the back of the net.
11 minutes later, Miguel Martinez-Romero passed the ball to Richard Montesinos, who seized control of the ball in open space and scored tie the game 1-1.
Princeton retook the lead in the 29th minute when Jayden Braswell worked his through Eastern Wayne defenders and ripped a shot past Eastern Wayne’s goalie.
“We’ve been preaching possession in practice,” Pilkington said. “We spend the majority of the time In practice possessing the ball and maintaining control of the ball to make the other teams defend, so we can control and dictate the pace of play.”
It looked like Princeton would head into the break with a 2-1 lead, but in the 36th minute, off an assist from Montesinos, Alexis Martinez scored a goal, and the teams entered halftime deadlocked at two-all.
Barely five minutes into the second half, Montesinos scored his second goal of the game to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead.
Montesinos would score again in the 60th minute to give the Warriors 4-2 lead.
“We got a little complacent there and didn’t deny the runners. They (Eastern Wayne) were able to control the ball in the middle and push forward,” Pilkington said.
The Bulldogs, however, refused to give up.
Milson Morales’ goal in the 70th minute cut the Warrior’s lead down to 4-3, and eight minutes later, Ernesto Garcia’s goal tied the game at 4-4 and set the stage for a wild, edge-of-your-seat finish.
With the clock waning, another Eastern Wayne foul just outside the box gave Princeton another free-kick.
The free kick, taken by Garcia, was lobbed into a sea of jerseys with just a minute remaining.
Emerging from the melee was Braswell, whose header found its way into the back of the net to give the Bulldogs the win.
“I think the guys, for the first time, believed in each other. They really were encouraging each other, and there were no negative comments when they made mistakes,” Pilkington said. “Everybody was behind each other, and that’s what I’ve been trying to preach this whole time that you can do great things if you stick together.”
Princeton travels to Goldsboro (2-4-1, 1-0) on Thursday, while Eastern Wayne hosts Beddingfield (0-1, 0-1) on Sept. 28.