Lessons Learned From Draw

South Royalton Earns a Moral Victory Over Sharon

  • South Royalton goalkeeper Sam Thornton reaches out to swat the ball away during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. The teams tied, 1-1, after double overtime. Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    South Royalton goalkeeper Sam Thornton reaches out to swat the ball away during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. The teams tied, 1-1, after double overtime. Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sharon's Max Buskey keeps the ball in bounds while South Royalton's JJ Decoteau follows him during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Sharon's Max Buskey keeps the ball in bounds while South Royalton's JJ Decoteau follows him during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Royalton's Christopher Lucas stumbles while chasing Sharon's Andy Bando-Hess during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    South Royalton's Christopher Lucas stumbles while chasing Sharon's Andy Bando-Hess during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Royalton goalkeeper Sam Thornton reaches out to swat the ball away during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. The teams tied, 1-1, after double overtime. Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Sharon's Max Buskey keeps the ball in bounds while South Royalton's JJ Decoteau follows him during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • South Royalton's Christopher Lucas stumbles while chasing Sharon's Andy Bando-Hess during the South Royalton at Sharon Academy boys soccer game in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Sharon — If the Sharon Academy boys soccer team learned nothing else from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against South Royalton, it’s never to underestimate a neighborhood rival.

Despite a 40-10 advantage in shots and dominating possession, the Phoenix (6-1-3) failed to notch the go-ahead goal while largely settling for low-percentage bids from outside the goalmouth.

The result was a moral victory for the Royals (2-6-1), who entered the game as losers of five of their last six and six straight against the Phoenix.

“We needed that,” said second-year Royals coach Wade Floyd. “We’re trying to get some confidence to help make a run for the end of the year. This will hopefully get us going.”

The letdown for Sharon came one game after it upset Vermont Division III front-runner Williamstown (9-1-1) last Thursday to hand the Blue Devils their first loss of the season.

The 1-0 road win may have led the Phoenix to look past South Royalton, which they’d beaten 4-0 earlier this season. Sharon also takes on sub.-500 programs Whitcomb and Blue Mountain this week.

“We got away from our game,” said Sharon captain Silas Mead, who assisted on Tanner James’ first-half goal. “Coming off such a big win, I think we just looked at these next few games and just sort of said, ‘How many goals can we score?’ ”

Not many against the Royals. Sharon repeatedly missed the mark or was turned away by South Royalton freshman keeper Jayson Perron, who made 14 saves despite being hobbled by a knee injury. Perron was hurt near the end of the Royals’ 6-1 loss to Rivendell on Friday.

Midway through the second half, James outran a Royals’ midfielder for a one-on-one bid against Perron, but pushed the shot left. Moments later, Sharon’s Max Buskey hit the crossbar, and Camden Morrison later lost his footing before he could get an open-look shot off cleanly on the right side.

Buskey set up James with a point-blank look with 10 minutes left, but South Royalton senior defender JJ Decoteau was there to prevent the goal.

James and Steve Davis both missed wide in the final 10 minutes, and both also sent headers over the net before the end of regulation.

“We did a much better job possessing the ball in the second half and just couldn’t turn it into a goal,” said Sharon coach Rob Stainton. “South Royalton always plays a tough game, and we knew they were going to be better than they were the first time we played them.”

The Phoenix have a pair of scoreless ties this season and have been held to two goals or fewer on six occasions.

“I don’t think I’d say we’re struggling to finish as much as that we’re not getting good chances and opportunities,” Stainton said. “We’re not getting behind teams and getting off easy shots. We’ve been getting a lot of (wide angle) shots off. Those are hard to defend, but they’re also hard to score with.”

Sharon has relied heavily on James, who scored 29 goals for the Phoenix junior varsity team a year ago. James’ 12 goals account for more than half of Sharon’s total offensive production, and he’s already scored one more than last year’s leading scorer, Galen Higgins.

“We’re relying on him too much,” said Mead, one of six returning starters from last season’s 12-4-1 semifinalists. “We’ve got to start getting more guys involved.”

On Tuesday, South Royalton struck first after Sam Berk sent a cross in front of the goalmouth in the 23rd minute. The offering was tapped backward by Nick Howe for Keanan Thompson, who plunked his team-leading fourth goal of the season through traffic and past Sharon keeper Sawyer Levy (seven saves).

The Phoenix answered less than five minutes later, when a lunging James bodied in a through-ball from Mead to make it 1-1.

South Royalton senior defenders Decoteau, Raven Hudson and Hunter Brock helped limit Sharon’s chances through the end of the first half before the Phoenix dominated in the second.

Free Kicks: Levy leapt to thwart a top-shelf penalty kick by South Royalton’s Nate Moore following a Sharon handball in the 59th minute. It was the Royals’ only shot of the second half. ... Less than two minutes later, Moore received a yellow card for a hard foul. ... Including offside infractions, South Royalton had 13 fouls to five for the Phoenix. ... Sharon went 0-for-8 on corner kicks; the Royals didn’t earn one. ... Sharon’s six-game winning streak against the Royals included Vermont Division IV quarterfinal wins in 2010 and ’11. South Royalton now plays in D-III. The Phoenix’ three ties are two more than they’ve had in any previous season during their 13-year history.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.