Hickory was ready when the curtain went up on opening night of the state boys soccer playoffs. The Red Tornadoes dominated Enka 7-1 behind a host of leading men in a 3A matchup on Wednesday night.
“I tell the boys all the time that if we pass and move, we share the ball, we’re a tough team to play against,” said Hickory coach Brian Jillings. “They came out flying, they did that — put the ball in dangerous places, crashed the blocks and got great rewards for it.”
Hickory, which is seeded 12th in the 3A bracket, is now 15-5-3 after the win. Enka, the 21st seed, ends its season at 14-10.
It took the Red Tornadoes less than eight minutes of action to find the goal. Patrick Ceccato got the ball deep on the left wing, dribbled around one defender and found the space to launch a right-footed rocket from 25 yards out.
Then the goals came fast and furious for Hickory. Beginning in the 16th minute, the Red Tornadoes scored three goals in the span of 2:59.
First Ceccato found Jose Vallecillos out in front of the net to make the score 2-0. Then Carter Holt passed to Ceccato for the left forward’s second goal of the evening. Then Vallecillos launched his second goal of the game with an assist from Luis Juarez for a 4-0 Red Tornadoes lead.
“We are blessed with two guys on the flanks that can get out there and mark some backs. We encouraged them tonight to do that,” Jillings said. “Four goals and three were bang, bang, bang.”
Both Ceccato and Vallecillos finished the game with two goals and an assist.
The Jets did get on the scoreboard in the 32nd minute. Noel Diaz connected on a play off of a free kick from 20 yards out to make the score 4-1 at halftime.
However, The Red Tornadoes outshot Enka 9-2 in the first half and limited the Jets to just seven shots the entire game.
“Ben Boston and Warren Daniels, the center backs, they did a great job crushing the back four and snuffing out anything,” Jillings said of his defense. “We did a good job of possessing it. That first ball out of the back is something we emphasize that has to be good.”
The second half was basically a repeat of the first, minus any additional Jets goals.
Santi Agreda was awarded a penalty kick after being fouled in the box. Although Enka goalkeeper Gavin Vascellaro rejected the initial kick, the rebound went straight to Agreda who didn’t miss his second opportunity.
The Red Tornadoes added a goal by Holt who was assisted by Vallecillos and topped the scoring off on a cross from Jeremiah Bush to Lewis Tate who headed it home for the final of 7-1.
The Red Tornadoes completely negated Enka’s speed and quickness.
“We were worried about them coming in and counter attacking,” said Jillings, who noted Hickory’s double-team tactics on the forwards and center-mids for the Jets. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t give the ball away in dangerous places and allow them to counter.”
Hickory finished the night by taking an unofficial 21 shots to Enka’s seven. Peyton Winkler started between the posts for the Red Tornadoes and was credited with a save. Mackenzie Tonka spelled him late in the second half.
Vascellaro had four saves for the Jets and Parker Roberts had another three saves in relief.
Hickory will be on the road for the second round of the playoffs. The Red Tornadoes will travel to fifth-seeded South Iredell on Saturday at 3 p.m. South Iredell is now 18-2-2 after downing the 28th seed, Erwin, on Wednesday by the score of 9-0.