Green Hope High, which knocked off top-ranked Sanderson on Wednesday, faces East Chapel Hill, which is ranked No. 2, in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4A soccer championships Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Falcons (21-2-0) were No. 1 in the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association rankings for much of the season, but were passed late in the season by Sanderson and East Chapel Hill.
Green Hope, which won the 4A title in 2011, beat Sanderson 3-2 on a late goal by midfielder MacLean Holbrook. He also scored the go-ahead goal in overtime in Green Hopes 3-1 win over Enloe earlier in the week.
While its Green Hopes fourth appearance in the fourth round of the playoffs in the last five seasons, the Falcons are still a somewhat surprising team to be in this position. Green Hope had to replace its entire starting lineup this year.
But the nimble-footed newcomers have filled in perfectly. The Falcons won their first 14 games this season and have won the last five.
The team links up well throughout the field, and strength begins with box-to-box junior midfielder Holbrook, who has 12 assists this year. Holbrook has scored the game-winning goal in each of the last two playoff rounds and is also a weapon with his throw-ins. Kalvin Kromer takes the corner kicks and has eight assists.
Josh Kennedy (10 goals, 12 assists), Silfo Guzman (10 goals) and Zack Compton (13 goals) lead the balanced Green Hope attack.
Tyler Hawley, the only returning player who saw much action last year, leads the back line along with Sam Rauf. Goalkeeper Sam Bissett has played well in the postseason.
East Chapel Hill (17-1-2) reached the fourth round with a 3-2 victory over Heritage.
East Chapel Hill is riding an unbeaten streak of 15 games and has won 11 straight. It has outscored its opponents 69-15 in 2012, not counting an own goal given up by a reserve player in the final minute against Heritage.
The Wildcats are playing in the NCHSAA 4A quarterfinals for the first time.
This is new ground for us, coach Austin Collins said. We need to stay focused on where we are and on playing that one match; we dont want to think about the last match or the next match.
East Chapel Hill has reached the fall playoffs every year since moving up to the 4A classification in 2005, but have made it past the second round only once in 2008, when they lost 6-1 to state runner-up New Hanover.
Gibbons at home: Cardinal Gibbons (16-4-4) is at home for a 10 a.m., 3A fourth-round game against Northern Guilford (16-7-2). Gibbons adjoins N.C. States Carter-Finley Stadium and the game time was set to avoid football traffic later in the day.
Gibbons is ranked No. 5 in the state after beating Southern Lee 4-0 in the third round. Gibbons has not allowed a goal in the playoffs and had a 16-0 scoring advantage.
Northern Guilford is No. 10 in the NCSCA rankings.
The winner will play either Jacksonville or Southern Nash in the Eastern finals.
Carrboro travels: Carrboro (16-6-3) goes on the road to Corinth Holders (19-3-0), which is No. 5 in the coaches rankings. Carrboro is No. 9.
Swansboro plays at Siler City Jordan-Matthews in the other Eastern 2A semifinal.
1A showdown: Raleigh Charter (13-6-0) upset top-ranked Durham Science & Math 4-1 to reach Saturdays 10 a.m., fourth-round game at Franklin Academy (12-6).
J. Mike Blake, W.E. Warnock
and Tim Stevens contributed
to this story.