CARY — Green Hope, the defending 4A boys soccer champion, will be going back to the title game for the third time in four seasons.
The Falcons defeated visiting New Hanover 2-1 Tuesday night in the 4A East final. The time of Saturdays game at N.C. State will be announced Wednesday, but the opponent is Charlotte Myers Park a rematch from last years thrilling title win.
The Falcons (23-2) struck first in the 11th minute. A deep free kick into the box led to a scrum for the ball.
Zack Compton got a head to the ball, which landed on a New Hanover player as he fell to the ground. The ball deflected up and backward and went over the line.
I was there watching it go through, making sure nothing happened to it, said Josh Kennedy, who was near the play.
The Falcons came close a few more times in the first half. A New Hanover player headed one near-goal off the line in the 29th minute, and an open shot by MacLean Holbrook was pushed just wide a few minutes later.
The Wildcats (15-7-3) nearly equaled the score before half. A dribbling shot that went by the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Sam Bissett left defender Sam Rauf and company to clear the danger away.
Raufs clear went to a New Hanover player, but Owen Jeffs slid in to close down the threat. Rauf is one of a handful of players who were on the field for last years 2-1 overtime win in the championship against Myers Park.
I was fortunate enough to be on the team last year. I was on JV, and we got pulled up, Rauf said. You cant describe it. For a high school athlete to go to one state championship is crazy. To be able to go to two of them, thats just unheard of.
Rauf had to make another clear near the opening of the second half. Bissett reached to grab a cross but ran into a teammate and dropped the ball, where a New Hanover player quickly tapped it toward goal.
As a center back, you always try to get behind Sam as much as possible to see if I can block whenever I can, Rauf said. They had a lot of good opportunities.
Bissett made two point-blank saves of New Hanover free kicks before Kennedy sent in a rifling shot from the right side of the box in the 61st. The Falcons took a 2-0 lead.
Zack Doernberg had a great run, played me a beautiful ball through, and I was looking to cross to Silfo (Guzman), but I didnt think I could get it to him, Kennedy said. The keeper was giving me near post so I just put it away.
New Hanover scored off a free kick with 15:28 left in the game, as Skyler Deyoung served in a ball that perfectly met the foot of a streaking Ricardo Olivares.
The Wildcats couldnt muster much of a shot on goal after that, and Green Hope was back in the 4A title game.
Itll be a tough game, first-year coach Richard Huxford said. Its whoever turns up on the night, isnt it? And hopefully its us.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps