The Hickory Red Tornadoes were motivated going into Wednesday’s rivalry match against St. Stephens. The Red Tornadoes suffered their first loss of the year Tuesday to Asheville Roberson on a last-minute goal, and they lost last season at Hickory to their crosstown rivals.
“We wanted to knock Saint out of the playoffs,” Hickory senior Michael Delong said. “We knew they were going to come ready, and they brought it. We just brought it more.”
Delong led the charge for the Red Tornadoes. The senior, only in his third season playing soccer, tied his career best with four goals and an assist in Hickory’s 7-3 win at home over St. Stephens.
Delong, however, could have had more. He had a scoring opportunity called back in the first half because of offside, and he had two point-blank shots hit the left post and crossbar, respectively, during a sequence in the second half.
“He just has the natural ability to finish,” Hickory coach Brian Jillings said.
Hickory is 10-0-0 and on top of the Northwestern 3-A/4-A standings with two conference matches left. St. Stephens dropped to 5-6-0 in conference play.
Hickory finished a lot Wednesday scoring on 7 of 22 shots in the match, and five of those goals came in the second half. St. Stephens coach Chris Nelson said two of the Indians’ defensive starters did not play, and the back line was fatigued as the game progressed.
St. Stephens got within two goals twice in the second half. Chris Sigmon cut Hickory’s lead to 4-2 less than a minute after Hickory’s Adam Betzweiser scored on a penalty kick, and St. Stephens’ Osvaldo Longinos-Cruz made it 5-3 20 seconds after a Hickory goal by Carlos Sevilla.
Sevilla and Delong connected twice. Sevilla assisted on Delong’s first goal, and Delong assisted Sevilla in the second half. Sevilla scored two goals in the win, and Hickory goalkeeper Julian Deutsch had three saves.
Longinos-Cruz and Sigmon each had a goal and an assist for the Indians, and Ben Watson scored the Indians’ first goal in the 14th minute to tie the match at 1.
St. Stephens goalkeeper Jon Holloway had six saves.