SPORTS>> Falcons inch closer to state playoff berth
Leader sports editor
The North Pulaski boys soccer team played itself to within one win of qualifying for the state tournament last week with a 3-1 win over Crowley’s Ridge Academy in Paragould.
Earlier in the week, the Falcons suffered a big loss to Mills 7-0, but rebounded with the win over CRA to move to 3-2 in league play.
The Fal-cons played their final conference match last night against Greene County Tech after Leader deadlines. They entered that match needing a win to qualify for the state tournament.
Against Crowley’s Ridge Academy, who is also known as the Falcons, North Pulaski fell behind early when CRA scored in the eighth minute of the game.
It didn’t last long, however, as NP’s Greg West scored just three minutes later.
The visiting Falcons took the lead for good late in the first half. Chris Tate scored the go-ahead goal after stealing the ball from a CRA player and getting loose into the open field. He went one-on-one with the CRA goalkeeper and beat him to tie the match.
The final goal of the match came early in the second half and featured one of North Pulaski’s most dramatic plays of the season.
Sergio Lopez’s first shot on goal was blocked by the CRA goalkeeper, but bounced back out into play. Lopez got another shot that the keeper partially deflec-ted. The ball rolled slowly past the keeper, but did not have enough momentum left to make it into the net. Lopez, still on the run following his own shot, hurdled the CRA goalkeeper and scored an uncontested goal to set the final margin.
“That was really an outstanding play,” North Pulaski coach Tony Buzzitta said. “He just stuck with it and never gave up on the play.”
The Falcons are just 3-10 overall, but their 3-2 conference mark leaves them within reach of the state tournament. If North Pulaski won last night, it guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and could go in as high as the No. 3 seed from the AAAA-East, depending on how the rest of the league finishes out the season.
The Lady Falcons beat Mills 3-1 last week and have already qualified for the state tournament. They could go as high as No. 2, and there’s a slim chance of going in as the top seed from the East. For that to happen, however, NP must win out and Valley View must lose twice since the Lady Blazers are currently undefeated and own the tiebreaker against NP.
Buzzitta says his boys team has shown much better teamwork recently, and says that is the main reason for the recent success.
“Even in the Mills game we didn’t play that badly overall,” Buzzitta said. “The score looks terrible, but I don’t think we were dominated at all.
“We just took some bad shots, and when we got shots, we didn’t make them quality ones. We created lots of opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on them.
“Against Crowley’s Ridge, we did a much better job of taking advantage of our opportunities. We’re playing better and with more unity. It’s been tough because we’ve been so inactive since spring break. But I feel like we’re starting to come around a little bit.”