Chapel Hill has been hitting on all cylinders since it entered the home stretch of the Big-8 soccer season.
The Tigers ended the regular season on a 17-game winning streak, finishing up with a 2-0 win at cardinal Gibbons to secure the conference championship and the state's No. 1 ranking among 3A programs.
Wednesday night, Chapel Hill (22-1-1) made it 18 in a row with its seventh straight shutout, 5-0 against No. 32 seed Union Pines (7-12-3) in the NCHSAA playoffs' first round.
"We are playing well right now," Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson said later. "There's not a lot more we can ask them (the players) to do."
Chapel Hill has not allowed more than one goal to any opponent since the first week of the season and has outscore its opponents 119 to 11.
In addition to getting solid play from its back line, defensive midfielder John Walden and offensive mid Ben Fisher have provided excellent possession, making it tough for anyone to divest them of the ball, let alone get off a shot.
Nate Hebert scored three of Chapel Hill's goals against Union Pines, and two of them started with Fisher putting the ball on Hebert's foot, Benson noted.
"Ben helped Nate get a good chance three, four times," Benson said. "He helped Nate get 1v1 with the keeper twice. That's good."
Benson also pointed out that following Hebert's first goal, coming in the game's 17th minute off an assist from Walden, it remained a one-goal game until the 47th minute.
"Every team has good players now," Benson said. "There are no more easy wins, especially in the playoffs."
Chandler Weedon gave Chapel Hill some breathing room with his score off a Fisher assist, and Hebert struck one minute later to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Hebert finished his hat trick with a goal in the 55th minute, assisted by Fisher. Jacob Owens closed the scoring with a goal, assisted by Daniel Ferreira in the 67th minute.
Chapel Hill moved on to face Northwood (12-7-1) in Saturday's second round, a Big-8 rival CHHS beat 4-1 and 5-1 in the regular season.
Elsewhere Wednesday: 4A No. 16 seed East Chapel Hill was bounced out by a physical Fuquay-Varina team; Northwood downed No. 17 seed Gray’s Creek 5-2 in a 3A match in Pittsboro; 3A No. 31 seeded Orange (9-12-1) lost 5-0 at No. 2 Fayetteville Terry Sanford (21-1-1); 2A No. 7 seed Carrboro took a 1-0 win at home against No. 26 Bunn (9-10-1); 1A No. 5 Woods Charter downed No. 12 East Columbus (6-7) at home 6-0.
In Saturday's second round, Carrboro (14-5-2) was to host Mid-State rival Graham (13-2-2); Wood's Charter (15-3) had to travel to No. 4 Whiteville (12-9-1).
See www.newsobserver.com for results of all Saturday matches.
Wildcats fall to Bengals
East Chapel Hill (9-7-3) led Fuquay-Varina early Wednesday on a goal by Zach Lee off an assist from Michael Balog. From there on, Fuquay-Varina (13-7-3) began to dominate play, with multiple chances and eight shots in the second half. East got off four shots in the second half, none of them on frame, and eventually fell 3-1.
The Wildcats struggled for offensive opportunities against a Fuquay-Varina team that racked up 15 fouls in the second half alone, some just at the edge of the penalty area, plus two yellow cards.