FOUR OAKS — Using his hands as well as his feet, Caleb Byrd and his North Johnston soccer teammates gave South Johnston all it wanted in the first half of their intra-county skirmish Thursday night.
But Jorge Barahona returned the favor and then some for the Trojans in the second half, and South took advantage of a 10-minute, four-goal surge to rally for a 6-3 victory.
The spree, which saw Barahona account for two of his three assists on the night and one of his two goals, was part of a turnaround in offensive play by the Trojans (5-2) of the Two Rivers 3A Conference.
Byrd, a senior forward for the Panthers, had a hand – literally – in two first-half goals and added one with his feet as North claimed a 3-2 halftime lead.
Byrd lifted the Panthers to a 2-1 advantage just three minutes into the match, using both his hands and his feet.
He utilized his hands with a throw-in from the right sideline to the left side of the goal, which Bailey Lail headed just inside the post past a diving Luis Garcia.
That goal came just 2:49 into the match and answered a goal by Carlos Parra for the Trojans 18 seconds earlier.
North kept up the pressure following that equalizer, as senior midfielder Trae Jones won the ball off the foot of a Trojans midfielder and launched a pass to Byrd, who dribbled up the field and blasted a shot past Garcia into the goal for the 2-1 advantage.
“We’ve been struggling with our offense,” said Panthers coach Jody Edwards, who saw his team dip to 1-5. “I was happy with the offense scoring two quick goals tonight.
“I was hoping it would carry over into the second half, but it didn’t.”
With a minute left before intermission, Byrd snapped a 2-2 standoff with a throw in from the right sideline, with the ball deflecting off Garcia’s hands and into the goal.
“We consider that a lethal weapon,” Edwards said of Byrd’s throw-in goal. “A throw-in is just as good as a corner kick, and he’s been working a lot on that.”
Parra had given the Trojans the 1-0 lead when he rocketed in a rebound from left of the goal crease off a shot by Barahona, which had been deflected by Panthers goal keeper Max Kirby.
Barahona leveled the match with his first goal, scoring with just under 17 minutes to halftime by taking a pass from Parra, then executing a 360-degree turn and hammering a shot by Garcia.
Still, Trojans coach Rami Kauppi wasn’t happy with his team’s first-half effort and told them so.
“It wasn’t a pretty first half for us,” Kauppi said. “I told them at halftime they were getting out-hustled – so they decided among themselves to step it (play) up – and they did.”
South became more aggressive and began winning a majority of the 50/50 balls like the Panthers had been claiming in the first 40 minutes.
Those wins turned into scoring opportunities, and Barahona took advantage, starting the Trojans’ 10-minute onslaught with a right-to-left blast following a cross from Yovani Martinez to knot the match five minutes into the second half.
With North beginning to turn its attention to Barahona, Parra sent a cross to Martinez, who deposited the ball into the net for what would be the winning goal three minutes later.
Barahona continued to make his presence felt, sending a cross to Jose Correa, who fired a left-to-right missile into the goal with 26:48 to play for a 5-3 lead, then assisted Alan Johnson on the final goal with 26 minutes left.
“We’ve been scoring in bunches this year,” Kauppi said. “When the gate opens, we can score.”