Published: Aug 20, 2012 11:10 AM
Modified: Aug 20, 2012 11:13 AM
CHAPEL HILL - East Chapel Hill showed a lot of class in the championship game of the 2012 Orange-Chatham Challenge a lot of its senior class.
An unassisted goal by senior Louis Levin, on the heels of a game-tying penalty kick by senior captain Matt Gerrish, proved enough for the Wildcats 2-1 win Thursday night at archrival Chapel Hill and clinch the Challenge title.
"This means a lot," said Levin. "This is still an emotional game for us. It means a championship, plus its against Chapel Hill."
Gerrish, who also scored on a penalty kick in Easts 1-0 victory over Carrboro in Tuesdays semifinals, immediately saw the difference a year had made between last years 1-6-1 start and the Wildcats 3-0 start last week.
"Last season, that rocky patch in the beginning, obviously we didnt like that, but it really helped us," Gerrish said. "We grew stronger from it; we came together, and now were playing our best soccer."
Chapel Hill (2-1) out-shot East 6-4 in the first half and led 1-0 after Ben Fisher scored in the 20th minute off an assist from Alex Walker.
East head coach Austin Collins, noting Chapel Hill was controlling the middle in the first third of the game. He shifted one of his 13 seniors, Charles Sellers, out of the midfield and put another striker senior Alexander Yokum up top alongside junior Zachary Lee. With more room in the center, Levin and senior classmate Victor Zhang had more room to maneuver and fire.
"When they scored first, we switched to a 4-4-2. We took Charles (Sellers) out of the middle, where it was kind of clogged up, "Yokum and Zach played very well up top. They were able to hold onto the ball, and that really opened up a lot of space for Louis and Victor to play the ball on the ground. They were our players of the game," Collins said. "They played great."
Gerrish tied the game in the 33rd minute on his second PK of the season, called for after a Chapel Hill handball in its own area. Gerrish ignored the Tigers complaints that the handball had been unintentional and flicked the ball in high to his left.
Easts midfield adjustments paid dividends quickly in the second half. In the 44th minute, Levin received a long ball near the top of the penalty area and moved a couple of strides forward before sliding low past the outstretched keeper.
East ended up with a 10-9 edge in shots. Chapel Hill goalkeeper Justus Heizer and Easts Jake Hikey each saved three shots. Both teams had three corner kicks.
Though local schools have yet to begin class, the game drew a large crowd of student partisans on each side. And though each team drew two yellow cards, and the spirited and physical play was relatively clean throughout.
Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson was not dismayed by the outcome.
"At the start of the season, we had a lot of good players who still didnt know how to play together. Now I think were playing together pretty well," Benson said. "We just need to start putting it in the back of the net a little more often. It will come."