Red Devils fall to top-ranked Golden Lions

In a match up of heavyweights in 2A soccer, Newton-Conover came up on the “short end of the stick.”

The Red Devils (3-1-1) gave up two early goals to Shelby (3-0-0) in the first half and surrendered three goals in the second half during a four-minute span on their way to a 6-1 loss.

“I think early in the season, we needed this,” said N-C coach Angelo Palozzi. “We had a good week last week beating AC Reynolds, Hickory and tying East Lincoln. I think this shows us where we are now and where we need to be.”

The Golden Lions, the two-time defending 2A state champions, scored the first goal of the game after a bobbled grab by Newton-Conover goalkeeper Hunter Nestor. Shelby’s Jerry Zeller was in position to capitalize for the 1-0 lead.

Just under eight minutes later, the aggressive visiting team scored their second goal of the game on a Manning Burton kick from the right side, which was assisted by Michael Cheaney.

Turning up their own offensive firepower, a fresh line up of Red Devils invigorated the team. Newton-Conover capitalized on the fresh legs, when Lucas Hernandez found Kevin Thorpe down the left side of the field.

Thorpe maneuvered his way through two Shelby defenders for the goal, the first goal scored against Shelby this season.

The momentum the Red Devils had built was broken with three minutes left in the half. Zeller scored his second goal of the game on an assist from Mason McCarter.

“We always take about the mistakes,” Palozzi said. “They kill us. We can’t give a team like Shelby a two-goal lead that early and fight our way back.”

Despite the late goal by the Golden Lions, Newton-Conover played competitively with Shelby in the early moments of the second half.

Three minutes into the half, N-C’s Jake LaFrancis drove for a shot, and teammate Eli Cordes nearly scored off the rebound.

It appeared as if the Red Devils would get back into the game, but that wasn’t the case. Moments later, the Golden Lions lead grew from two to five in a span of five minutes.

Matthew McMurray pocketed the first goal after a battle amongst players in front of the Red Devils’ net.

Cheaney, who nearly scored earlier in the half by hitting a shot off the crossbar, connected on a goal at the 23:08 mark.

With 21:15 left in the game, Burton added his second goal of the game and first of the half on an empty-netter after N-C goalie Jose Bandek fell down.

“I think our fitness was down,” Palozzi said. “Shelby was running all over us. We tried to get all of our guys behind the ball on defense. I don’t know what was wrong.”

The Red Devils will try to bounce back when they host Hibriten on Monday at 7 p.m. in a non-conference soccer game.