To hear Chris Vlahoplus tell it, teammate Ike Drooz is among the bevy of Broughton players capable of serving a dangerous ball on restarts. It’s just of matter of who’s going to get on the other end of it.
On Wednesday night, Vlahoplus and Brandon Gettinger rose above the Apex defense to head in a goal from a Drooz restart, sparking the Caps to a 3-1 win over the Cougars in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys soccer playoffs.
“Set pieces are a big part to the game, and you’ve got to work on them,” said Broughton coach Nick Wheeler. “You’ve got to take what they give you. And the best part about it is it’s not me drawing up a play. It’s the players making the right decisions. They’ve got to see their options and take the best one – hopefully.”
In the 18th minute Wednesday, Vlahoplus did just that when he nodded in a goal from a Drooz corner kick.
“I saw it coming in from the corner from Ike,” said Vlahoplus, who added a second goal in the 67th minute. “I was leaning back trying to get to it. It popped off my head perfectly. (Drooz) knows how to put a ball in that’s going to be dangerous and somebody’s going to get on the other end of.”
That proved to be the case again in the 50th minute. On a restart from the middle of the field, Drooz smashed a ball into the area, and Gettinger was there to flick it in for a 2-0 advantage.
Despite trailing, Apex held a slight edge in possession and scoring chances before going down 2-0.
Dan Nugent’s blistering shot from 20 yards in the 19th minute forced Broughton goalkeeper Frankie Stallings to make a sprawling save. In the 30th minute, moments after subbing in, Skylar Dove saw his flying half-volley sail just over the crossbar.
But Broughton’s defense held firm. After Alex Stewart’s blast was parried away by Trey Morton – who entered the match at halftime in relief of Stallings – the Caps didn’t allow another shot for nearly 25 minutes.
“Those guys back there are tough and they take pride in protecting our goal,” Wheeler said. “And we have two really good goalies ... that both deserve to play.”
During the same time, the Caps continued to flood forward and pound Apex deep in their own end.
After Drooz connected with Gettinger in the 50th minute, Vlahoplus put the game away in the 67th. Taking a short pass from Abdulle Ibrahim, Vlahoplus kept the ball alive and ruthlessly finished at the near upper corner for a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars drew a goal back in the 69th minute after Stewart’s converted a penalty kick, marking the first goal the Caps allowed in the playoffs.
“It took everything we had to come through tonight,” Wheeler said.