Despite enduring a trying time over the previous 28 hours, the Union Pines boys’ soccer team took to the field Thursday at 7 p.m. for its regular season finale.
With the substantive support of its school, family members, classmates, friends and, most importantly, each other, the Vikings went on to celebrate senior night in stirring fashion with a 3-0 victory over Scotland High at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium in Cameron.
“What you saw was Union Pines faculty, staff, students and community coming together,” said Union Pines interim coach Nick Capps. “It’s all about the kids and we are all here to support one another.”
Thursday’s match was Union Pines’ first time back on the pitch since former coach James Kevin Hayes was relieved of his duties with the team and terminated from his teaching position at Union Pines High School, Wednesday, after he was arrested and charged with the sexual exploitation of a minor.
Capps, a Union Pines assistant principal, said before the game he spoke to his team about, “How they play for Union Pines and they play for each other as a team.
“Athletics is about overcoming obstacles and rising to the challenge. The team rose to the occasion, especially our seniors. Our fans were behind us and after that early first goal we kept the momentum going.”
Union Pines used a quick start to jump out to a 3-0 lead 17 minutes into the nonconference match and played sound tactical soccer the rest of the way through. As a result Scotland (3-13) never posed a serious threat of any kind as the Vikings cruised to victory, improving to 7-9-1 on the season.
Senior Trey Recabo got Union Pines on the board in the first minute of the tilt when he scored on a breaker with a chip shot to the far post from deep down the right middle lane of the penalty box. In the 11th minute senior Brennon Bullock received a through ball, near the 28, took three touches and deposited a bullet into the back of the net to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
For good measure, senior Rafael Pastrana connected for a goal on a corner kick with 23:17 remaining in the first half to push the Union Pines edge to 3-0.
At halftime Bullock, Pastrana and Recabo were joined by fellow seniors Matt Cooper, Reed Howell, Riley O’Neil, Troy Rooney, Otis Smith and Jose Torres in a commemorative ceremony including the players’ parents and Union Pines administrators.
After the game Cooper, a Vike co-captain along with O’Neil, spoke about the emotional whirlwind he and his team had endured and how as a group they were able to prepare mentally to take the field for their senior night match.
“Honestly, yesterday (Wednesday) everyone naturally was devastated,” said Cooper. “When you looked at all our players faces it looked like someone had died. Everyone was down and we just didn’t know how to handle it.
“Eventually, as a group, we established that all we had to do was get out and play our game. We trained yesterday right after we heard about the events just to get it out of our system. Really all we could do was leave everything on the field and forget all our worries with the recent events that have happened. We felt tonight was a night we had to overcome adversity.”
Up next for the Vikings is the opening round of the Cape Fear Valley 3-A Conference tournament. Union Pines is the fifth seed in the tournament and travels to Sanford Monday to take on fourth seed Lee County (9-7-1) at 6 p.m.
Lee County and Union Pines met twice in the regular season. In the first match the clubs played to a 0-0 draw, while Lee County won the second match by a tally of 3-0.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.