CARY — Two throw-ins by Green Hope midfielder MacLean Holbrook helped the Falcons gain a late two-goal lead on visiting Sanderson on Wednesday night. The Spartans rallied to equalize, but Holbrook struck again, this time by rifling in a goal with just 4:08 to play that stood as the game-winner in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
In a battle of two teams ranked in the state’s top three, No. 3 Green Hope defeated No. 1 Sanderson 3-2.
It has been quite a week for Holbrook, who also had the go-ahead goal in the first overtime in Green Hope’s second-round win against Enloe.
“I never doubted our character. We showed great character,” said Green Hope coach Richard Huxford. “You look at players, and some players are big-game players. They’re cool when they need to be and they rise to the challenge and MacLean certainly comes in that bracket. He’s been fantastic all season. He’s a great kid and a great player and he’s come up with the goods.”
Both of Holbrook’s assists on the throw-ins went to teammate Zack Compton.
Compton headed in a goal in the 22nd, then did a half-bicycle kick in the 47th minute after Holbrook’s throw-in took a deflection off the goalkeeper’s mitts.
(MacLean’s) “throws are so helpful to the team,” Compton said.
A 2-0 lead, as any coach will tell you, is the most dangerous in soccer.
And that old adage rang true as Sanderson ‘s Dylan Haynes took a free kick from just outside the penalty box in the 59th minute that skipped by defenders and went into the side netting. The Spartans equalized in the 74th minute as Ryan Turner headed in a throw-in from teammate Sam Willard.
With so much talent on both sides of the field, four of the five combined goals came from set pieces.
“It was a really nice game, but the back four on both sides played really well. Coming in, we felt like it would be a struggle to get by them. And we kept them at bay,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said. “We didn’t get a lot of shots and they didn’t get a lot of shots and it was just a matter of two back fours really committing to defense.”
Sanderson’s defense began scrambling late in the match, trying more than a few times to clear the ball from its defensive third but the balls kept falling in front of Green Hope players. Eventually one fell to Compton, who sent a through ball to Holbrook, who had a 1-v-1 with the Sanderson keeper as other Spartans were caught out of position.
“I guess we were all trying to get our foot on it but we couldn’t and it just happened to come to Zack and I was lucky to put it away and help the team,” Holbrook said.
Even Huxford ran onto the field to help in the Green Hope (21-2) celebration.
Sanderson (23-2-2) completed its second straight season with more than 21 wins only defensive miscue
“In the end, we got a little excited and got disorganized in the back and they took care of it. It was a good game. I thought both teams really played well,” Worley said. “You make one mistake a game, that’s not bad.”
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