Jets sweep Eastern Randolph with 4-2 victory, eye final PAC 7 title

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/7/21

SILER CITY — Jordan-Matthews is one win away from escaping the PAC 7 2A conference as its final champion.

The Jets earned a come-from-behind home victory over the Eastern Randolph Wildcats …

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Jets sweep Eastern Randolph with 4-2 victory, eye final PAC 7 title

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SILER CITY — Jordan-Matthews is one win away from escaping the PAC 7 2A conference as its final champion.

The Jets earned a come-from-behind home victory over the Eastern Randolph Wildcats (4-4) on Friday, 4-2, to improve their record to 7-1 on the season and put themselves in prime position to take the conference crown this week.

In its previous three seasons in the PAC 7, Jordan-Matthews has won the conference once (2017-18) and placed second twice.

“If we win one of the two next week, then we’ll clinch,” said Paul Cuadros, Jordan-Matthews’ head coach. “We’ve been conference champions many times, but we didn’t get it last year, so I’ll be happy to leave this conference as the champions.”

Next season, as part of the 2021-25 NCHSAA conference realignment plan, Jordan-Matthews will be a part of the 1A/2A hybrid, soon-to-be-named “Conference 14” along with Chatham Central (1A) and Seaforth, Pittsboro’s newest high school opening this fall.

The realignment will take Jordan-Matthews out of Randolph County, where it’s played nearly all of its road conference games over the past four seasons (aside from Guilford County’s T.W. Andrews).

Friday night’s game was a sign of why that might be a positive thing for the Jets. At least as far as soccer goes.

In the only loss of the season for the Jets so far, 1-0 to Wheatmore on Feb. 10, the lone goal came in the waning moments of the first half, when Wheatmore’s Collin Burgess got the ball on a beautiful, arcing pass by Jagur Williams a little past midfield and took it in for a breakaway score.

The contest against Eastern Randolph was much of the same.

“That kind of loss, a loss of concentration in the last 10 seconds, a lucky bounce, what can you say?” said Cuadros. “And (Eastern Randolph) got a couple of goals like that tonight. I’ll be happy to leave this conference because this is the style of play that a lot of teams in Randolph County play.”

That style of play consists mainly of through balls and breakaways.

On Friday, the Wildcats scored both of their goals towards the beginning of the second half — in the 46th and 51st minute after being down 1-0 in the first — off of plays where they were able to get ahead of the defense, once on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1 and another on a through ball to a player streaking down the left sideline, who got a crossing pass to Yane Jaimes for the go-ahead goal.

“We like to play a more possessive game and kind of move the ball around,” said Cuadros. “So for us, as a team and as a program, it really kind of put us in a shape to say ‘Look, we win it all out, the conference is ours. That’s all we have to do.’”

After looking sluggish for most of the second half, they came alive down the stretch primarily because they stuck to that style.

The Jets had numerous opportunities on the offensive end to make something happen in the second half, including a couple of shots that hit the crossbar and a penalty kick by Zander Ocampo that was narrowly saved on the left side of the net, all contributing to the 21 shots on goal that J-M got off on the night.

The flood gates didn’t open up until Cristian Escobedo — who scored the only goal of the first half — got a pass from Ocampo on a corner kick and smoothly slotted it to the left corner of the net in the 65th minute.

Escobedo scored again just five minutes later on a crossing pass from Cristian Cruz, completing his hat trick on the goal that would act as the eventual game-winner.

“That was his best night. Sometimes he fades in and out, but the last couple of games, he’s really come on and really understood his role there,” said Cuadros. “He’s been getting vision. Vision is something we talk about and train for in practice, to be able to see the game maybe one step ahead and anticipate what may happen and he did that tonight, he was fantastic for us.”

A few minutes after Escobedo’s goal, Franco Basurto took a deep shot that made a couple of bounces before it went by the goalkeeper into the right corner of the net to make it 4-2 in favor of the Jets. Game over.

The defense for Jordan-Matthews was phenomenal all night, especially Cruz and Irvin Campos Cervantes, who Cuadros called the “twin towers,” acting as a strong line of defense before getting to goalkeeper Ricardo Rocha.

Cruz shut down multiple scoring opportunities for the Wildcats, including one in the first half where a shot zoomed towards the net after Rocha fell. Cruz jumped in front to save it at just the right moment.

“Both (Cruz) and Irvin Campos have been the pillars of our defense and those two guys stand tall in the back, so they’re invaluable,” said Cuadros. “Cruz has got the speed and the stamina to just run all day and run people down and that’s what we needed. Especially against (Eastern Randolph’s Yane Jaimes), who’s a fantastic player.”

After the game and Cuadros’ postgame speech, the entire Jets team huddled tightly around their coach, jumping and yelling in celebration.

Jordan-Matthews, one win away from clinching the PAC 7, has overcome academic eligibility issues, a mostly young roster and a plethora of postponed games to get to this point. Not to mention, Eastern Randolph acts as one of their main rivals in soccer because of how close the two schools are — just 11 miles apart.

The celebration was justified.

“No (the celebration) doesn’t happen every game, but this helps us to kind of get closer to clinching the conference,” said Cuadros. “It’s a high-intensity game, we knew it was going to be a playoff level type of game and atmosphere, and the guys were thinking about it … It’s very much a little rivalry that’s been going on between Siler City and Ramseur when it comes to soccer, and we got it tonight. So a little celebration, why not?”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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