Photo/James Pugh

Only one record mattered to South Jones boys soccer Tuesday night. The team’s 3-7 record it started the night with, and 4-7 record it finished with, wasn’t the focus. The focus was on its 1-0 start in Region 5-5A. South Jones opened region play with a 2-1 win over county rivals Laurel Tuesday night on The Reservation.

“We were 3-7 before tonight,” said South Jones head coach Lucas Gleason. “I told our team we’ll call that our pre-season because those games don’t matter as far as going into the postseason. Getting our first win and going 1-0 in region play is big, especially heading into West Jones [on Friday]. West Jones is a tough opponent. They always are. That’s always a tough game to play because it’s a rivalry game.”

South Jones was challenged defensively in the first half Tuesday night as Laurel kept possession for the ball more than the Braves’ head coach preferred. 

“You can’t say enough about Laurel’s athletes,” said Gleason. “They outran us a couple of times [in the first half]. That was one of the things they were able to do well. They outran us on the wings and sent the ball across on some good looks.

“But once we got the ball across, we were finally able to apply some pressure on them.”

When an opportunity to score presented itself in the 12th minute, South Jones answered. In the first of two header goals Tuesday night, senior Tyler Duckworth put the ball in frame on a corner assist by junior Mark Diers. 

“Not a lot of luck has gone our way this year, as far as goals are concerned,” said Gleason. “We haven’t been able to finish when we have an opportunity to do so. But we were able to put a ball in and finish a goal tonight. That’s a big deal.

“There’s not enough that can be said about getting a goal in the first 10 to 15 minutes. That sets the tone and makes everything better from that point on. It takes the pressure off us and puts the pressure on them.”

In constant to the first 40 minutes, South Jones controlled possession in the second half. Gleason said that was due to his team being locked in, nursing a 1-0 lead, and a 2-0 advantage after junior Fausto Reyes’ header in goal in the 67th minute. 

“We talked about things we were doing well at halftime and the things we were not doing so well,” said Gleason. “We worked all week on playing possession soccer. We controlled possession for I’ll say 60-70 percent of the second half, and that was big for us. Anytime you have a 1-0 lead, and you’re able to add another goal to it, it gets you locked in.”

Ducksworth received the assist on Reyes’ header. 

Laurel made the final minutes interesting, scoring a goal in the 73rd minute to draw within a goal of South Jones. The seven minutes yielded nothing more, though, as the Braves picked up a win on opening night of Region 5-5A. 

South Jones (4-7, 1-0) will travel to West Jones (6-6-1) Friday night for yet another big showdown in region play. Laurel (2-5-2) has the rest of the week off and will play West Jones next Tuesday night at home. 

Girls Game: South Jones 6, Laurel 4.

Senior Madison Diers put South Jones (8-1-2, 1-0) in the driver’s seat Tuesday night with her first half hat-trick (three goals). Freshman Brianna Gray and eighth graders Taylor Lawrence and Abby Howard added goals as well in the 6-4 win over Laurel (0-8-1).

South Jones girls led 6-1 at the half. Laurel forced Lady Brave starters back in the game after three-second half goals. No more goals were scored after that point.

Junior Ashlyn Jones led Laurel with two goals. Senior Tessa Ward and freshman Michelle Jeronimo also finished goals on the night.

South Jones will travel to West Jones (8-5, 1-0) Friday night for a big Region 5-5A match. West Jones shutout Wayne County 13-0 Tuesday night on the road to open region with a win as well.