PEMBROKE — The Scotland boys soccer team dropped three of four games to begin the season, but after defeating Purnell Swett 4-2 on the road Wednesday, Danny Gallagher’s program is on a four-game winning streak heading into next week’s pivotal home contest against Pinecrest.
Scotland’s Donovan O’Donnell scored on an assist from Nyjel Collins-Jackson to break a 2-2 tie with 24 minutes remaining in the game, then Jeb Britt tacked on an insurance goal down the stretch to help the Scots pull away for the victory in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Scotland improved to 5-3 overall and 1-0 in the SEC, while the loss dropped Purnell Swett to 1-6-2 and 0-1 in conference play.
Despite scoring a combined six goals, both teams failed to notch a point in the first 25 minutes of play. The visitors drew first blood with 15 minutes remaining in the first half when Tripp Wells squeezed the ball past Rams goalkeeper Joel Lowry for the score.
Both teams had a handful of chances to score before Wells’ goal, especially Scotland, but a bad touch here or errant pass there derailed several scoring opportunities before the Scots got on the board.
“We were a little lacking in the final third today, we had a lot of chances early in the game which I would have liked to see us put away,” Gallagher said.
It wasn’t long after Wells’ goal that Purnell Swett answered with the equalizer as Jydor Locklear found the back of the next on a well-executed crossing pass with 13 minutes to go before the break.
The score remained 1-all until halftime, but the Scots grabbed the lead once more five minutes into the second half. Shane Dubbs lined up his shot from inside the right side of the box and found the left post, the ball sailing just beyond the outstretched arms of Lowry.
As has been the case for many of Scotland’s goals during its recent winning streak, the play was set up by crisp passing from the Scots’ midfielders and forwards.
“They’re doing much better knocking the ball around in two or three touches, and they’re noticing they’re not getting as tired when they do the simple stuff,” Gallagher said.
Down 2-1, the Rams played with more urgency as the half progressed and their efforts paid off with 25:06 left in the game. Dawson Brooks outran the Scotland backline, staying one step ahead of his defender for over 20 yards before working his way into the box and booting the ball past goalkeeper Khalil McNair to knot the contest at 2-2.
But 47 seconds later, the Scots took the lead for good, as Collins-Jackson kept possession of the ball despite a herd of Rams defenders surrounding him and crossed it to Donovan O’Donnell, who finished the play with the go-ahead goal.
“One of the things Donovan is really good at is following directions — you can tell him something once and he does it every time,” Gallagher said. “We’ve been working on getting it wide and getting it across, and that was one of those where we were able to put it in the back of the net. Good finish.”
Britt added another Scotland goal off a corner kick from McKenzie White with 5:38 left to seal the victory for the visitors from Laurinburg.
Eurie Smith, who played an intricate part in the Scots’ offensive attack against the Rams, said after the win his team has come a long way since the first few games of the season. What have they improved on the most?
“The passing and the talking more,” he said. “We talked more than we usually do and came away successful. We treat each other like family and I think that really helps with us communicating, getting on the ball, and the passing comes from us knowing our teammates.”
Scotland is off until Monday, when it will host defending co-SEC champion Pinecrest. The varsity contest is set to kick off around 7 p.m.
Scots tennis holds off Richmond
LAURINBURG — The Scotland girls’ tennis team improved to 3-2 in the SEC this season with a 5-4 victory over rival Richmond Senior Wednesday.
The Scots jumped out to an early lead in singles play and held on in doubles to secure an important conference win.
Scotland’s Camryn Ellis defeated Kathrin Reister 6-3, 6-4 in No. 1 singles, and Anna Griswold bested Kenzie Ransom 6-3, 6-4 on court No. 2.
The Scots’ other two singles wins came on court Nos. 4 and 5, as Cheyanne Strong beat Jayana Nicholson 6-2, 6-0 and Grace McIntyre outlasted Majasti Robinson 6-4, 6-3.
The Raiders notched wins in No. 3 and No. 6 singles. Destiny Buie bounced Brooke Bathie 6-1, 6-0, and Kallie Hammond swept Kerrigan Campbell 6-2, 6-3.
Ellis and Griswold were the only Scotland pair to win, defeating Ransom and Reister 8-5. Richmond’s victories came in No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, as Nicholson and Robinson downed McIntyre and Strong 8-5, and Meredith Stogner and Buie edged Liza McIntyre and Bathie 8-6.
Scotland will host Purnell Swett Swett at home Sept. 24 in its next SEC match.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.