CHAPEL HILL — Defending state soccer champion Jacksonville got all it could handle from Chapel Hill Saturday, but the Cardinals eked out a 1-0 win in the fourth round of the NCHSAA state playoffs.
The Tigers (26-1-1), who had won 20 straight matches, hadn’t been shut out since a 0-0 tie with Jordan on Sept. 3. Chapel Hill’s only loss was a 3-1 defeat to Wilmington Hanover on Aug. 30.
“We didn’t expect this (low score),” said Jacksonville coach Dave Miller, whose team (19-4-1) has advanced to nine consecutive state finals. “We knew what kind of potent offense they had and figured one score wasn’t enough. But both defenses did great.”
Chapel Hill senior goalkeeper Justus Heizer had eight stops – five in the first period. Heizer’s most fantastic stop was off a Cardinals penalty, where he correctly guessed which way the ball was coming.
“I got really lucky and got my hands on the ball,” Heizer said. “But everybody on the team played hard.”
But the turning point came when a yellow flag was called on the Tigers with 1:37 left in the first period, setting up another penalty kick. This time, Jacksonville forward Tyler Moore made the right call, giving the Cardinals the only goal they needed.
“Of course, we were thinking we could score two goals in the second period, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson said.
The Tigers got their first penalty kick attempt of the second period at 35:39, but the ball sailed wide right. Nate Hebert broke away from the pack for an uncontested kick that curved just left of the goal at 29:24.
Conner Albrecht’s header at 24:32 slithered left. John Walden had a single shot blocked at 15:01, and Ben Fisher had two straight attempts at the goal that were snagged in the air.
“That’s the game of soccer,” Benson said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. This is the best team I’ve ever coached.”