After tying Carrboro twice this season, East Chapel Hill didn’t want to take any chances, beating the Jaguars 3-1 in the season finale for both teams Friday night.
East Chapel Hill’s Wildcats shrugged off a midweek loss to PAC-6 champion Jordan and scored on a goal by Yensen Rodriguez in the first 90 seconds at Carrboro. After moving ahead 2-0 by halftime off a goal by freshman Quin Albrecht, East Chapel Hill killed the Jaguars’ hopes for a rally with Michael Balog’s goal in the 67th minute.
Balog assisted on Rodriguez’s goal by sending him a ball from the end line to the near post, and Balog scored himself on a similar crossing ball from Fernando Sanchez. Maggwa N’dugga fed Albrecht for the second goal.
Carrboro avoided a shutout thanks to Alican Arcasoy’s unassisted score with 4:03 left to play. Luke Hickey started the play with a driving free kick from 30 yards out, which bounced off the right post. Arcasoy banged in the rebound.
“We scored early, too, when we tied them before,” Balog said. “We were happy to get some goals early tonight. … But it was really important to finish out the season with a big win like this.”
Both Class 4A East Chapel Hill (9-5-2) and 2A Carrboro (13-5-2) finished the regular season stronger than they started.
Seven games into its schedule, East Chapel Hill was 2-2-3, including the pair of ties with Carrboro. East won a penalty kick shootout in that first tie to move on in the Orange-Chatham Invitational, but that did little to disguise the fact that the Wildcats were struggling.
The Wildcats tweaked their setup, making their defense more solid, and won six of their last 10 matches. That included a 5-3 finish in Piedmont Athletic Conference matches and a second-place finish in the league.
“We definitely turned it around in the second half of the season,” Balog said. “We had to work hard to get that No. 2 seed for the playoffs, and we’re proud of it.”
Carrboro struggled out of the gate as well. The Jaguars won their first game under first-year Carrboro coach Jared Drexler, but then proceeded to go 2-4-2.
Everything turned around as soon as Carrboro hit its Mid-State Conference schedule. The Jaguars ran the table in league play, going 10-0-0 and outscoring Mid-State opponents 56-5.
“We did very well in the conference, and we’re confident now,” Drexler said. “I hope this game doesn’t change that.”
Carrboro enters the NCHSAA 2A playoffs as a No. 1 seed, and East Chapel Hill will be a No. 2 seed in the 4A tournament. With the NCHSAA using a new system of using teams’ overall winning percentages to set a seed’s place within its bracket, no one was willing Friday night to forecast an opponent.
Drexler said he had no regrets about scheduling 4A East Chapel Hill as a non-conference opponent.
“Better to play East than some team you’re going to beat 9-0,” he said.
East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins felt the same way.
“Normally, we’d practice Thursday and Friday and then Monday and Tuesday for the first playoff game,” Collins said. “I told the players that this was the best practice we possibly could have had. … We haven’t played a lot of teams at the caliber of Carrboro.”