CARY — This time Green Hope’s boys’ soccer team needed more than one goal to win. In fact, two goals wouldn’t have done the job, either.
Falcons goalie Sam Bissett had opened the season with three straight shutouts in Green Hope’s 3-0 start as defending state champions, but the News & Observer’s No. 1-ranked Falcons needed all three goals to edge No. 5 Sanderson 3-2 in Thursday’s non-conference match at Green Hope’s field.
In Green Hope’s previous victories, the Falcons defeated Leesville Road 1-0, Smithfield-Selma 2-0 and Wake Forest 4-0. That left Bissett, who has already committed to Davidson, admitting he was enjoying the action from afar too much. He was caught without his usual intensity for moments in Game 4.
“That was my bad,” Bissett said. “This was the first time I’ve been tested this year. I don’t know what happened on their first goal. I just froze. I have to keep my intensity up.”
Sanderson’s ranking entering the match should have been enough to motivate the Falcons, but Bissett said he noticed an overall team letdown after Green Hope took a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the match.
After nice save by Sanderson goalie Walker Lozaw, Green Hope attacked again with a header by Owen Jeffs hitting the crossbar. The ball bounced right of the goal, where MacLean Holbrook redirected as pass inside and this time Zack Compton converted a header into the net.
Despite the non-conference matchup, Green Hope and Sanderson are developing into a rivalry. The Falcons had to get past Sanderson in last year’s third-round state playoff match en route to the title. The players also know each other from playing close matches for opposing club soccer teams.
The competitive temperature showed with a couple of yellow cards against Sanderson players and physical play on both sides.
“Yeah, it got a little chippy out there,” Bissett said.
Sanderson’s first threat came at the 10-minute mark when Michael Clemmons, who is committed to Campbell University, found himself in a breakway. Bissett aggressively came out to challenge the shot and record the save.
But the Spartans tied the match at 1-1 at the 19-minute mark with goal by Michael Barrell and an assist from Grayson Gregory that left Bissett shaking his head in disgust at himself.
Compton and Holbrook connected on another cross and header with Compton converting for a 2-1 halftime lead.
Cole Dixon scored Green Hope’s third goal just two minutes into the second half on a third assist for the night from Holbrook.
Clemmons got a goal with an assist from Mora Ramirez midway through the second half, but Bissett had another big save in him to preserve the lead. He deflected a close shot over the crossbar.
“It was a good game,” said Sanderson coach Todd Worley, a 21-year veteran. “We had some bad stretches and we had to fight through when the yellow (cards) got involved. But our guys kept playing. Green Hope was impressive, but our guys kept coming hard.”