ELKIN - With the state playoffs right around the corner, Elkin and Starmount have punched their tickets to the postseason.
At 10-3 heading into their season finale Thursday night against Forbush, the Buckin’ Elks have secured the No. 1 seed from the 1A side of the split Mountain Valley Conference. The Rams, sitting at 7-7 in conference play, earned the third and final 2A slot into the playoff bracket.
In its season finale, Starmount dropped a heart-breaker to Wilkes Central Wednesday night in Moravian Falls, 2-1.
Senior co-captain Chandler Chappell found the back of the net for his 20th goal of the season to give the Rams a 1-0 advantage midway through the opening half.
Starmount dominated the first 40 minutes, firing off several scoring opportunities, but failed to score outside of Chappell’s goal. The Ram defense held the Eagles without a shot in the half.
But Central found its groove in the second half on Senior Night, controlling possession and out-shooting Starmount 11-4 in the half, finding the back of the net on two of those shots.
Will Cornette tied the game up at 1-all with a goal with 12 minutes left on the clock before a Trevor Royall header in the waning seconds of the game gave the Eagles the thrilling 2-1 victory.
Despite the loss, the Rams turn their focus to the postseason.
“The regular season is over and now we move to the new season for the playoffs. It pretty simple - win and advance or lose and your season ends,” head coach Dale Draughn explained. “We will get back to our style of soccer during our next training sessions and prepare for our first-round opponent.
“From this point on we control our fate. We have to leave it on the field each time we step on the field cause it might be the last time this group of young men play together. We have a challenge ahead of us but I think we are up for the challenge,” he added.
In Elkin, the Elks closed out their home slate with a convincing 3-0 victory over the same Central side Monday night on Senior Night.
“We played extremely well; we passed the ball extremely well,” head coach Joe McCulloch said. “We worked on it in practice and this one of the first couple games I’ve seen us actually take what we do in practice and put it in the game. So I’ve very pleased. Big win heading into the last week of the season and a little momentum going into the playoffs.”
Powered by goals from seniors Ashton Gant and Chance Hogan, Elkin secured the top 1A seed coming out of the MVAC.
Gant got the Elks off to a fast start, finding the back of the net just two minutes into the match as Elkin controlled possession for much of the first half.
After a dozen scoring opportunities after Gant’s goal, Hogan finally broke through with 30 minutes left in the second half. The senior took a pass in the box from Andrew Palaez and put it past the Wilkes’ keeper for the 2-0 lead.
Gant added a final insurance goal on the assist from Eric Gonzales with three minutes remaining as the Elks cruised to their 10th conference victory.
“This is the first time we’ve been this high in a long time,” McCulloch explained. “The kids have realized it. They are seeing their efforts are paying off. They’ve worked really hard this season and its paying off for us. The 1A is special because everyone has a good quality team and we’ve been fortunate enough to beat some 2A teams, which gives us more confidence that we can play. I’m really excited.
“We’ve had a really good season. The kids are excited and they know we have a good quality team, we just have to play 80 minutes,” he added.
The state playoffs begin next Wednesday. The seedings and pairings will be released early next week.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.