If East Chapel Hill’s game last week at Riverside was any indication, the race for this fall’s PAC-6 soccer crown is going to be every bit as tight as predicted.
East and Jordan have split the last three championships between them, sharing the 2012 title. Before that, Jordan, Riverside and East battled it out every fall since former PAC-6 member Chapel Hill moved to 3A and the league took on its present, six-team configuration.
This year, still-undefeated Northern Durham makes it a legitimate four-way race.
“Every conference game is important because it’s now it’s four teams competing — not just Jordan and East and us,” Riverside coach Jose Santibanez said. “Every game, you have to come out strong and compete from the first whistle.”
East Chapel Hill (5-3-0) and Northern (7-0-0) are both 1-0-0 in conference games after diametrically different games last week. The Knights enjoyed a 9-0 laugher against Roxboro Person, while East’s Wildcats had to go into double overtime before earning a 1-0 win at Riverside that snapped a five-game unbeaten streak by the Pirates.
“We played with unbelievable intensity from the start,” said East’s Quinn Albrecht, who scored the game-winner at Riverside. “We really had to push it the last 10 minutes and got the win.”
Each victory is made even more precious because of the paucity of games, East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins noted. Cancellations by some non-conference opponents, plus the decision by PAC-6 member Hillside to field only a junior varsity team this season, left East Chapel Hill with just one game a week since a pair of games against Wilmington Laney and New Hanover on Aug 30-31.
East took a two-hour bus ride to Southern Pines on Sept. 2 and lost 2-1 at undefeated Pinecrest (5-0-2) in a lightning-delayed contest that didn’t allow the ‘Cats to get back home until past midnight.
Ten days later, East lost a 3-2, roller-coaster of game against Chapel Hill — the Wildcats’ last game before Wednesday’s contest at Riverside.
“Getting a good result here was big,” East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins said after Wednesday’s win in Linny Wrenn Stadium. “After that long trip to Pinecrest and that Chapel Hill game with all those emotions, a loss or a tie here wouldn’t have helped us at all.”
Riverside controlled the early minutes of Wednesday’s game, but Jake Macmillan’s header into the hands of East Chapel Hill goalkeeper Nic Mallett in the fifth minute was the Pirates’ lone shot on-goal.
East Chapel Hill took over the tempo of the game throughout the second half, getting off seven shots to Riverside’s four, but both teams missed some chances.
Riverside strike Enrique Avendano got excellent looks from inside the penalty area twice in four minutes midway through the second half — sending one wide left and another high over the crossbar.
East Chapel Hill’s eagerness resulted in four offside calls in the second half, including one after Anthony Shopshire thought he’d scored the go-ahead goal in the 75th minute.
Riverside keeper Jose Enamarado made three saves in the second half, including two against almost point-blank shots by Albrecht and Ralph Nayo.
“They played some great defense,” Collins said. “Their goalkeeper made some great saves.”
Albrecht finally broke the tie in the 97th minute on a play started by Bradly Demoll’s pass from the wing. Albrecht got the ball above the penalty mark and spun though two Riverside defenders before slotting the ball low and to his left past the goalkeeper with 3:16 left in the second overtime.
“We had missed so many shots up to then, I was worried we’d miss that one, too,” Collins said. “But he shot it nice and easy.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to build on this next week against Northern.”
East Chapel Hill hosts Northern at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Jaguars take three
Carrboro improved to 8-2-1 with three wins last week, extending its unbeaten streak to seven straight.
Bartlett Yancey became the first team in five contests to score a goal against the Jaguars but still got clobbered 5-1 Monday. Carrboro followed that with an 8-1 blowout Wednesday of Burlington Cummings.
Playing for the third time in four days, Carrboro got a game-winning goal from Jake Zinn, who scored with 4 minutes left in Thursday’s 2-1 victory at Cedar Ridge.
Led by goalkeeper Richard Cato, the Jags defense has surrendered only six goals in 11 games. Ya Moo (8 goals) and Than That (7 goals) lead Carrboro in scoring.
With an early lead in the Mid-State 2A Conference, Carrboro hosts Jordan Matthews at 6:30 p.m. Monday and then Graham at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Those two games should decide who has first place in the Mid-State.
Tigers on top
Chapel Hill (7-2-1), the last team to beat Carrboro, kept pace with Cardinal Gibbons (8-0-1) atop the Big Eight 3A Conference with a pair of 4-0 wins last week. Both CHHS and Gibbons are 4-0-0 in conference matches.
The Tigers shut out Cedar Ridge last Monday and won at Orange on Wednesday.
The Tigers have outscored their last five opponents 22-3 an are unbeaten in six straight.
Chapel Hill stays in conference this week with a game 6 p.m. Monday at home against a good Northern Vance team (3-3-2) and then travels to Southern Durham for a 6 p.m. game Wednesday.
In other Big Eight games this week, Northwood is at Orange at 6:45 p.m. Monday at Northern Vance on Wednesday; Orange pays at Oxford Webb at 6 p.m. on Wednesday; Cedar Ridge hosts Cardinal Gibbons on Wednesday.