It didn't take long for Asheville Christian Academy Lions to get on the scoreboard against Owen on Oct. 6.
Reigning champions of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, the Lions (13-3-2) would go on to hand the Warhorses (9-4-2) their fourth loss of the season in 1-0 battle that showed how competitive the current state of soccer is in the Swannanoa Valley.
Last year the Lions won the state championship with a 16-3-2 record and were ranked 15th in the state by MaxPreps. It was the first championship for the program that's advanced to the NCISAA final four or state qualifier nearly every year since 1999.
Lions coach Terry Hughes has been the school's boys and girls soccer varsity coach since 2007, leading the boys team to three conference championships. The girls team won its first state championship last season as well.
David Fiest took over the boys program at Owen when Tate MacQueen left the school following the 2013 season. The team finished 11-8 at the end of Fiest's first season as head coach. He guided the Warhorses to an 8-6-5 record last season.
As of Oct. 7, the Warhorses were 7-1 in the Western Highlands Conference and 9-4-2 overall. They've played larger schools like Asheville High School, which lost 3-1 to ACA in August. Owen held the Cougars to one goal in the 1-0 loss.
The Warhorses also had success against the largest school in Buncombe County, T.C. Roberson, by tying the Rams 1-1 on Aug. 29. Roberson is currently ranked 23rd among 4-A teams in the state.
The match between Owen and ACA was just one of many highly competitive matches for the Warhorses against nonconference opponents, but it had the makings of a cross-town rivalry.
Although Owen was unable to respond to an early goal by the Lions, the Warhorses possessed the ball for much of the second half. ACA responded by making key defensive plays to keep Owen off of the scoreboard. Both teams maintained a high level of intensity throughout the contest.
The Lions are on the road for their final two regular season matches of the season - on Oct. 12 against Christ School and Oct. 15 against Carmel Christian.
Owen will play conference opponents Mountain Heritage, Madison, Hendersonville and Polk before facing Erwin on Oct. 24 to close its regular season.