The Rocky Mount-Wilson high school soccer rivalry seems to have taken on an extra layer with Wednesday night's match between Rocky Mount and Hunt.
Unfortunately, it's not a good one.
In the last four years in the now defunct 3-A NEW 6 Conference, Rocky Mount and Fike were archrivals in girls and boys soccer. There were some spirited games, at times with extracurricular activities spurring the rivalry. Former Gryphons coach Patrick Sensiba, a fiery leader, made it often clear that Fike was the team in Rocky Mount's sights. And Fike, which enjoyed quite a bit of success in the NEW 6, seemed to relish the role of the Gryphons' antagonist.
But when Sensiba departed following the 2007-08 school year, he was succeeded by Drew Nick, who spent one year at Hunt, which was then in the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference. Nick left Hunt somewhat reluctantly because he wasn't offered a teaching job at the school.
Now the Warriors are in the 3-A Big East Conference, along with Fike, Rocky Mount and the rest of the former NEW 6 schools. Because many current Warriors played for Nick, a natural rivalry has developed. Factor in the status of Hunt and Rocky Mount as state-ranked teams and Fike falling off a bit this year, it makes sense that the Warriors and Gryphons would have some intense matches this season. Fueling the fire is the fact that many Hunt and Rocky Mount players compete together on the same travel soccer teams.
That certainly was the case Wednesday night as Hunt won an emotion-charged 3-1 decision in which two yellow cards (by my count) were handed out to each team. Unfortunately for the Warriors, both their yellows went to high-scoring senior forward Aaron White who will have to sit out two games following his ejection.
CORRECTION: Since White's red card was the result of two yellows, he was merely disqualified from Wednesday's match and will not have to serve further suspension.
But the most disappointing part of Wednesday's match came early in the second half when White was taken down by Rocky Mount's Justin Hartney in the box. White was awarded a penalty kick which he converted for a 3-0 Hunt lead. However, Warriors head coach Trent Dorough took exception to what he thought was Nick yelling to players to "take him out," meaning White.
Dorough, usually a mild-mannered coach, was incensed enough to complain to the officials who conferred with Nick at midfield. Nick denied the claim even though all the Warriors on the bench raised their hands when Dorough asked if they heard him say it.
I must admit I didn't hear Nick say that but I wasn't listening intently. I will say that having known Nick in his time at Hunt, I would be very surprised if he intended for his players to cause injury to a former player. That just does not compute to me.
After the match, Nick was intent on telling his side of the story.
"If I could comment, I would never and have never had one of my kids take another player out," he said. "So the accusations from the coach on the other side are totally false and he should apologize. Not for nothing, he’s created bad blood between us."
Dorough didn't refer to the situation directly in his postgame remarks but did point to questionable officiating. (White wasn't even sent off the field following his first yellow card.)
"I hate we got out of our game, I hate what happened on the sidelines," Dorough said. "I just hate the way the game was officiated. The whole game was just a brawl; it wasn’t a soccer match. It wasn’t fun ... It wasn’t the way I like to play."
It wasn't fun for me either since I know and like both coaches and think the intensity of the match probably led to the situation. Hopefully the rematch at Rocky Mount won't be about this situation because these are two pretty good soccer teams and they put on a good show Wednesday night.
Especially the goalkeepers, Hunt junior Will Jacobs and Rocky Mount sophomore Drew Gorham. No official statistics were kept but both keepers made some spectacular saves as well as boomed punts to keep the opposing offenses off-balance.
Gorham, by the way, played for the Wilson Youth Soccer Association '93 Explosion Blue which included Hunt's Sam Hoeferkamp, among others.