APEX — Middle Creek’s Daniel Bryan let it rip and put an end to years of his school’s and family’s frustration. Bryan’s goal near the top of the box with 40 seconds left in sudden-death overtime gave the Mustang boys lacrosse team a 9-8 victory, their first win against Apex in school history.
Bryan has been familiar with the school’s underdog status for longer than he’s been in high school. His older brother was on the first Middle Creek lacrosse team in the early 2000s.
“To finally be on the top of one is unexplainable,” Bryan said.
The play began with Jack Doetzer (2 goals, 1 assist) behind the net, who found what appeared to be an open Drew Conway. Conway (1 goal, 1 assist) didn’t shoot and instead drew a defender away from Bryan before sending Bryan (2 goals, 2 assists) the pass that led to the screaming game-winner.
“We passed up a couple of shots on that possession just to set one up for him and it was just a great finish,” Conway said.
“We were really unselfish and it led to an open shot, and thank God I put it away,” Bryan said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
In a week that breaks down almost like a conference tournament, Middle Creek’s defenders – Walter Metcalfe, Bobby Marschewski, Jay Schuller and Darin Gooding – got the stretch of games off to a good start.
Apex couldn’t break free from the Mustangs in the first three quarters as the defenders forced tough angles.
“We talk about playing team ‘D’ and keeping our sticks active in the passing lane and they’re really buying into my philosophy. And it’s working,” Middle Creek coach Paul Robison said.
Athens Drive, which sits a game behind in third place, plays both Apex and Middle Creek this week and can potentially force a three-way tie for the Conference 3 (the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference plus Southern Pines’ Pinecrest High) title.
But for now, Middle Creek (14-1, 13-1), third in The News & Observer area rankings, has forced a tie for the lead.
Second-ranked Apex (13-2, 13-1) had won the previous meeting 4-3, the third time it had beaten the Mustangs by a goal in the past four years. Those close losses had added to Middle Creeks’ frustration, which was relieved in a big way as they rushed the field at the end.
“We’re so much more mature as a team (from) however many weeks ago,” Bryan said.
The Cougars didn’t score in the second quarter, trailed 4-2 at halftime and 8-3 after the third quarter. Middle Creek defenders and goalie Nick Arcuri thwarted most scoring chances.
Apex rallied with five unanswered goals in the fourth quarter as Colby Lalicker, a VMI recruit, won faceoff after faceoff and Apex began to get some man-advantage plays.
“It was a lot of effort. As we told the kids at the end, it was a great effort and great comeback. Middle Creek played great,” Apex coach John Hayden said. “I thought we were kind of flat. Maybe these guys learned something. You can’t come at a big game kind of halfway. We almost got away with it, but we didn’t. We’ll see how they deal with adversity and how they take it moving forward. That’ll determine a lot.
Daniel McCauley had a team-high three goals for Middle Creek and Troy Diebolt added one. Will Floyd and Jared Medwar had one assist apiece.
For Apex, Chandler Besser (2 assists) and Brendan Farrell (1 assist) each had three goals. Mike Daum and Jack Hayden (2 assists) each added one goal. Dayton McGough had one assist and Lalicker had two.