CARY — Every Sanderson boys soccer team since 1996 has dreamed of making it back to the state championship game. Wait no more Spartans 17 years has been long enough.
Sanderson defeated Green Hope 3-0 Tuesday night in the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys soccer 4A East final that was a clash between two of the traditional powerhouses.
Green Hope is the two-time defending champion and was playing in its sixth East final in the past seven seasons; Sanderson is an 11-time champion that will be making its 14th trip to the state final.
To be able to add maybe one more to that list is pretty big, Sanderson senior Ryan Turner said.
Snow flakes were plentiful from the player introductions until early in the second half.
Green Hope (22-3) opened up as the sharper team, controlling possession and taking six shots before Sandersons first.
But the Spartans first two shots were good ones.
Michael Clemmons attempt was saved and pushed wide by diving Green Hope goalkeeper Sam Bissett, but Turner kept his run and tapped in the rebound.
The first real attack on goal for Sanderson had the Spartans up 1-0 in the 34th minute, a score that held until halftime. It was the first time Green Hope had trailed all postseason.
If we scored once, we didnt stop, Turner said. We were high pressure.
The Spartans (23-6-1) didnt play back in the second half, instead choosing to keep their shape and play the Falcons straight-up. Todd Worley, now 301-103-17 as a head coach, said it was more important to keep everyone organized.
Green Hope had won the regular-season meeting 3-2.
There was no pressure, Clemmons said. We were ready to play.
Sanderson held possession for much of the first 20 minutes of the second half but nearly slipped up when Walker Lozaw made a last-ditched save in the 43rd minute on a curling Green Hope shot.
In the 68th, Dylan Haynes took a counterattack down the left flank and wiggled free of his defender in the box. His first shot was saved by Bissett, but Haynes followed the ball and had the rebound.
Its amazing, Haynes said. Its such a good feeling to finally be able to do it.
Clemmons added an empty-net goal in the 79th.
It was a tough loss for the Falcons, who are 71-6 over the past three seasons under three different head coaches.
Soccers a funny game, first-year coach Michael Hoy said. Sometimes you can play a team as well as we did and lose 3-0. But in the end, Sanderson took care of business.
Sanderson is now tied for second-most NCHSAA boys soccer championship appearances with Swansboro, behind only Charlotte Catholics 17.
Awaiting the Spartans is Ashevilles T.C. Roberson (26-0-2), a 5-2 winner in the 4A West final. Sanderson is the only Triangle team in the boys soccer finals after Raleigh Charter lost 3-1 in the 1A East final at Wallace-Rose Hill and 2A Carrboro lost 3-1 at First Flight High in Kill Devil Hills.
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