RALEIGH — Before the season started, Sanderson coach Todd Worley could not imagine his team playing for the state championship.
But in one of those magical seasons, the players put together a run that evoked memories of Sandersons rich soccer tradition. They made it all the way to the final game before losing 2-1 to Asheville T.C. Roberson on Friday night at N.C. State.
Sanderson lost eight starters off the 2012 team, leaving a small nucleus.
I thought our defense was going to be terrible, that we were going to have to score a lot of goals, said Worley, who was the starting goalkeeper on two of the Spartans state championship teams. But this was a unique team. Before the season they talked about winning the conference, winning this and that. But the chemistry was there. They enjoyed being together on the field and off the field. They pulled for each other and pushed each other.
Worley knew he had two good returning defenders and leaders in Drew Biddell and Grayson Gregory.
And then Jeffrey Crawford and Eli Grimes stepped up and shored up the defense. We played a tough schedule and even the losses were by one goal, so we became a good team, he said.
Worley also found a surprise in goalkeeper Walker Lozaw.
He didnt play soccer outside of school, hes more of a baseball player, Worley said. But he had a great year and we were lucky to have him. Hes only played a couple of years of soccer.
Most of the scoring came from Michael Clemmons, Ryan Turner and Dylan Haynes. Haynes had the Spartans goal in the championship game, but was disappointed with the loss.
It was definitely heartbreaking, said Haynes, whose brother Brandon played on two state championship teams at Broughton. But it was an outstanding opportunity to play for the state championship, something Ill always remember.
The Spartans also got strong midfield play from Michael Barrell, who had an assist on the goal, Miguel Mora Ramirez and Alex Struble.
Miguel Mora was the heart of this team, Worley said. He is just relentless and will go head to head with anyone out there. Struble is also a hard-nosed player.
Sanderson drew a large crowd to the contest that included former coach Bob Catapano, who led the Spartans to nine wins and two ties in state championship games. He counted at least 20 of his former players, who helped start the Sanderson soccer tradition more than 30 years ago, at the game. Worley, who succeeded Catapano 16 years ago, was also glad to see many of his former players at the game.
Youve got to give this years team credit for not getting down when they lost games, Catapano said. They stayed together. Im not sure it was the most talented team at Sanderson over the last 10 years, but its incredible what hard work and chemistry can do.
We knew we were facing a vey good team in Roberson, Worley said. But just getting here is so difficult. I wish we could have won, but they did everything possible. It just didnt bounce our way.
But soccer is really a family tradition at Sanderson and this team is in a fraternity that made it to the state finals. I couldnt be prouder.