CARY — While a lot of the names have changed, Green Hope, the defending state 4-A soccer champion, continues its winning tradition.
Richard Huxford is the first-year coach of the Falcons, whose roster is quite different from a year ago. But his team rolled to an 8-0 record and 5-0 in the Tri-Nine Wednesday night, with a 4-0 win over previously unbeaten Middle Creek.
Senior Josh Kennedy is one of the few holdovers from last year’s team. He got the Falcons going with the first goal of the game and scored again later.
“The first thing coach Huxford said to us is this team has its own identity. The only thing it shares with last year’s team is the name Green Hope and we want to represent that as much as possible,” Kennedy said. “This group has really come together, working well together and we’ve gotten off to a great start. I’m not surprised we’re undefeated, we’ve got a great group of guys and with only four seniors I think we’re set for the future as well.”
Neither team took a shot in the first ten minutes of the game, but then Kennedy took the ball away from a Mustangs defender and had an open shot right in front of the goal in the 11th minute.
“I work hard putting pressure on the defense and when I do that they make mistakes and I was able to capitalize on that mistake, and I was able to put it away,” Kennedy said.
“That play was the turning point,” Huxford said. “They were unbeaten, they’ve got good spirit and good physical. They pushed us all the way and it took a while to get the upperhand.”
Ten minutes later Kal Kromer scored after Andrew Lawrence’s shot hit the post and bounced to him. Tyler Hawley stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 24th minute on a penalty kick goal.
Kennedy got the final goal early in the second period off an assist from Hawley.
Kennedy now has five goals to lead a balanced Green Hope offense. The Falcons have outscored their opponents 25-5 and 10 Green Hope players have scored goals.
Coach Huxford was glad to see the shutout.
“I was pleased with our guys, another clean sheet, we defended well,” Huxford said. “That group was Sam Rauf, Tyler Hawley, he was great tonight, Andrew Lawrence, and Nathan Cook, who probably played his best game tonight. As a backfield, they’re real solid. I was pleased with the midfield, the worked really hard and we passed the ball around, a good all-round performance.”
“They’re defending state champions and really good,” Middle Creek coach Eddie Wasdell said. “They got a couple of goals and made it tough on us to come back. It’s been a good year for us and I think it will continue to be a good year. This is one game in a long season and as long as the boys respond in a correct way, we’ll be fine.”
Huxford expects his team to stay hungry.
“I think in sports if you take anything for granted it can kick you in the teeth,” Huxford said. “We need to keep improving, that’s our mindset.”