Carrboro was the last team standing after last weekend’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletics Association soccer playoffs.
The Jaguars, seeded No. 7 in the NCHSAA East, won 1-0 Saturday evening at No. 3 Clinton to advance to the regional final for the fourth straight year.
In other NCHSAA fourth-round matches Saturday, No. 1-ranked Chapel Hill was upset 1-0 by defending state champion Jacksonville in the 3A playoffs and No. 5 Woods Charter fell 3-1 to No. 7-seeded conference rival Raleigh Charter in the 1A tournament.
Raleigh Charter, formerly a rival of Carrboro’s in the old Carolina-12 Conference, split its regular-season meetings this year with Woods Charter, and the two finished tied for the lead in the 1A North Central Athletics Conference, each at 12-2 in league play.
Woods Charter (17-4-0) won the first meeting 3-2 at Raleigh Charter, and the Phoenix evened the series with its 2-1 win at Woods.
Raleigh Charter (20-5) advanced to the NCHSAA 1A East Region final, where it was to play at No. 1 Wallace-Rose Hill (21-3).
Jacksonville (19-4-1) is on familiar ground after ousting Chapel Hill with a 1-0 decision in the NCHSAA 3A playoffs.
The Cardinals, seeded No. 4 in the East, were in their ninth consecutive region final when they hosted No. 6 Wilson Hunt (17-6-1) on Tuesday.
The Tigers (26-1-1), who had won 20 straight matches, hadn’t been shut out since a 0-0 tie with Durham Jordan on Sept. 3. Chapel Hill’s only loss was a 3-1 defeat to Wilmington Hanover on Aug. 30.
Chapel Hill senior goalkeeper Justus Heizer had eight stops – five in the first period. Heizer’s most fantastic stop was off a Cardinals penalty, where he correctly guessed which way the ball was coming.
“I got really lucky and got my hands on the ball,” Heizer said. “But everybody on the team played hard.”
But the turning point came when a yellow flag was called on the Tigers with 1:37 left in the first period, setting up another penalty kick. This time, Jacksonville forward Tyler Moore made the right call, giving the Cardinals the only goal they needed.
The Tigers got their first penalty kick attempt of the second period at 35:39, but the ball sailed wide right. Nate Hebert broke away from the pack for an uncontested kick that curved just left of the goal at 29:24.
Conner Albrecht’s header at 24:32 slithered left. John Walden had a single shot blocked at 15:01, and Ben Fisher had two straight attempts at the goal that were snagged in the air.
“That’s the game of soccer,” Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. This is the best team I’ve ever coached.”
Carrboro on the road
It’s a trip Carrboro has made before.
After pulling off a 1-0 upset Saturday at No. 3 Clinton, No. 7 Carrboro (17-5-2) had to travel next to Kill Devils Hills, where it was to face East No. 1 seed First Flight (22-0), located about 500 meters from the Wright Brothers Memorial monument.
The Jaguars made the same 230-mile bus trip last year for the NCHSAA East’s third round, taking down the Nighthawks 1-0 as Carrboro continued on its way to the state championship final.
“It can be a bit tough on the legs, staying on a bus that long,” Carrboro coach Jared Drexler observed. “But it’s a good time for some team bonding. You’re going to be hanging out together for a while.”
First Flight, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Salisbury, reached the region final by taking down another of Carrboro’s former Carolina-12 foes, North Carolina Science & Math, 2-0 on Saturday.
Drexler said Carrboro put together “the best game we’ve played all year” in upsetting Clinton’s Darkhorses (21-4-2).
“That was one big win,” Drexler said. “Everyone was dialed in, focused for the entire 80 minutes.”
Carrboro won on an almost-golden goal by Hans Singh, who scored off an assist from Nico Krachenfels with barely more than 60 seconds left in regulation. But Drexler noted it was a “team win.”
“We’ve got everyone buying into the team now,” Drexler said. “We’ve got a lot of really talented players – no one real all-star. We’re playing together really well, and that game (at Clinton) gave us a sense of playing as team better than we have most of the year.”