Crotta’s game-winner lifts Wildcats past Knights

By Jeremy Moorhouse - Special to the News

Andrea Crotta’s first goal proved to be the game winner for West Stokes. His second put the game away.

Crotta scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second half and added a breakaway goal with less than a minute left to lift the Wildcats past North Davidson 4-2 on Monday night.

“He’s a great individually skilled player. We try to play to that strength,” Wildcats coach Andrew O’Neal said. “The guys all night kept good shape and defended well, played a little direct to him when we could, and let him do his thing.”

Crotta, a foreign exchange student from Italy, broke a 2-2 tie on a rocket of a shot from the sideline that just beat Knights goalie Juan Ochoa with 17:44 left.

The Wildcats (4-5) withstood a flurry of scoring chances from North Davidson and got some key saves from keeper Alex Puckett down the stretch. Crotta put the finishing touches on the game when he beat Ochoa again for a goal with 48 seconds to go.

“We really needed one, especially against a good team like this, a good 4A school,” O’Neal said. “We are starting to find what works for for us, and what doesn’t. I think if we just buy into it and keep playing hard, we will be in all of our games.”

Caleb Peters scored just 50 seconds into the match and Seth Moore found the back of the net 3:37 for an early 2-0 Wildcats lead.

But North Davidson (6-4-2) didn’t fold as starting keeper Cameron Heath had to make a tough save on a shot from Frank Turner that deflected off the crossbar midway through the first half. The Knights kept the pressure on. Heath received a yellow card during a collision in the box following a corner kick at the 23:32 mark. Puckett came in for Heath in goal and had to face a penalty kick from Logan Caldwell after West was whistled for a foul in the box. O’Neal was issued a yellow card after protesting the call.

Caldwell converted the PK with 22:12 left in the first half to put the Knights on the scoreboard. Puckett stopped a handful of shots from North Davidson in the next 30 minutes of play, until A.J. Harrison scored the equalizer for the Knights when he snuck a goal in near post with 22:23 remaining.

Things got physical at times in a match that included five yellow cards and a second-half collision in the box that left several players shaken up for both teams.

North Davidson had a few opportunities late, but Puckett and the defense held strong.

“I was really proud of the guys. After they tied it up, you could feel the momentum swing in their favor, but they stuck with the game plan,” O’Neal said. “It’s easy to panic when it’s not going well right then, but they stuck with our plan and we just saw it through.

“We were fortunate. Our keepers did a great job and our defenders have done a great job all year. We were fortunate we put in some set pieces and made our chances count.”

The victory snapped a four-game slide for a young Wildcats team with just two seniors in the starting lineup. West opens Western Piedmont 2A Conference play on Monday at North Surry before returning home to play Forbush on Wednesday.

By Jeremy Moorhouse

Special to the News

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