RALEIGH — When the NCHSAA boys’ lacrosse brackets were released, Apex likely glanced down the line to see a potential third-round match-up with Cardinal Gibbons, the only team to defeat the Cougars in 2013.
Before that game can take place, Apex will have to focus on getting through Middle Creek in the second round Tuesday.
“If they’re not, we’ll be done on Tuesday night. Middle Creek is that good,” said Apex coach John Hayden. “The kids know that.”
But if the Cougars can replicate their performance in Friday’s convincing 13-1 win over Leesville Road, they’ll have their chance to avenge their only two defeats of the year.
Apex (16-2) jumped all over the Pride (12-5), who appeared in the first playoff game of its two-year history.
Mikey Daum scored the game’s first goal just 92 seconds in, and Brendan Farrell delivered a game-changing goal with seven seconds left in the first quarter. Farrell’s score, the first of three for him, came about a minute after Leesville nearly got on the board, but Apex goalkeeper Tyler Nesbitt made point-blank save. So instead of facing a 3-1 deficit after the first, the Pride was down 4-0.
“We talk about early-in-the-quarter goals and late-in-the-quarter goals and how they’re huge momentum changers,” Leesville coach Jeremy Fullbright said. “Apex had the momentum, and a goal with five seconds left in the quarter off an opportunity for us really just put us in a hole.”
The Pride had no answer for the Cougars’ array of attackers, who outshot Leesville 34-11. Six different players scored for Apex: Farrell and Luke Sieber both had three goals, Baum two and Jack Hayden and Dayton McGough one apiece.
Keying the attack all night — as he’s done all — season was Derek Sweet. His three goals and five assists gave him 101 points for the season, a new school record.
“I didn’t know about that. It’s just crazy,” Sweet said. “I didn’t know I was close to that. It’s all about my teammates. They set themselves up, move off the ball, losing the guys I’ve got to pass it to them.”
Leesville goalkeeper Matt Conrad prevented the score from being more lopsided. He finished with 15 saves.
Though the Pride will lose its senior goalkeeper, Fullbright sees a promising future for his emerging program after just two years of competition.
“Since day one when we started the program, we preached and emphasized improving every day, being excited to play the game every day and outworking our opponent,” Fullbright said. “We’ve consistently done that. If we keep improving, we ought to be back here next year with a different result.”