Chapel Hill High Schools soccer team learned a good lesson last week when it hosted Apex for a scrimmage: Be ready to play as soon as the whistle blows.
Apex, one of the top teams in the perennially powerful Tri-Nine 4A Conference, came out of the blocks fast last Thursday, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes and going on to win 4-0.
Apex coach Kevin Todd wasnt too surprised.
He had said, even as his players stretched in pregame warm-ups, that they were eager to get the 2012 season under way.
Theyre looking forward to getting out there and playing, Todd said.
You can tell the anticipation they have for the season by the numbers we had out and the general enthusiasm over the summer.
Were looking forward a lot because of the expectations that the players have thrust upon themselves, which is good.
Thats the best pressure kind of pressure you can have.
With a veteran roster crammed with seniors, Apex looked like a genuine contender for state honors in 2012.
The Cougars finished 17-5-1 overall last year and second in the Tri-Nine behind 4A state champion Green Hope (25-1-0).
Apex was No. 13 in the final coaches poll behind No. 1 Green Hope and conference rival Fuquay Varina (20-5-2), ranked No. 8.
Apexs seniors did all of the heavy lifting Tuesday at Chapel Hill.
Collin Hardee struck in the opening minutes with a rocket shot from at last 25 yards out, drawing murmurs from even the flock of impressed officials standing along the sideline, waiting to rotate in for their own field time during the scrimmage.
Less than five minutes later, Matt Bailey pounced on a misplayed header by a Chapel Hill defender and took it down the sideline to the corner, from where he crossed it nicely with his right foot across the six-yard box.
Austin Brackfield one-timed the ball in for a 2-0 lead.
Anthony Miracola added a goal with an assist from Robert Smith to make it a 3-0 Apex lead at the half.
Were going to learn a lot from this, Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson told his players at the break.
Hopefully, well put these lessons to work in the second half.
Chapel Hill pepped up its play in the second half, Benson said, holding the Cougars to a single goal by Hamish Horton.
With just one or two different things, it could easily have been 4-2, but then again it could have been 6-0, too, Benson said.
The 3A Tigers were far from depressed about the outcome.
Chapel Hill has made it a habit in Bensons 26 years of coaching to challenge the states best teams in the early going and reaping the benefits in conference games.
Last year, Chapel Hill went 17-8-1 overall, including an 0-3 record against 4A Raleigh schools, but then went 8-2 in conference play, losing only to eventual 3A state champion Cardinal Gibbons.
Relegated to road games throughout the 2011 playoffs, CHHS still reached the third round of the state tournament.
Chapel Hill returns 10 lettermen for this year, including all-conference defenders Chandler Wheedon and Luke Ciocca, both of them juniors, and sophomore all-conference midfielder Ben Fisher.
Senior Cole Shoup provides even more experience along the CHHS back line.
Junior Nate Hebert and senior Matej Vidic are Chapel Hills most experienced players up front.
Im optimistic, Benson said.
Weve got a lot of good players coming back.
And well have an entertaining style of play.
Well be a bit like the Carolina football team high energy and pretty offensive minded. Next
: Apex doesnt begin its regular season until Aug. 20 with a match at Raleigh Sanderson.
Chapel Hill begins play Monday at 7:30 with a home match versus Burlington Williams.