Outrageous was the word. Again.
That’s was how Dominic Koplar described how hard his East Chapel Hill Wildcats worked to beat archrival Chapel Hill 12-7 Thursday night at Culton-Peerman Stadium.
It was the fourth consecutive victory by the Wildcats (11-3) over the Tigers, including last week’s victory at East by the identical score.
“We played outrageous tonight, I’ll use that word,” said Koplar, a former East player. “These guys communicate, they listen and they do things correctly.”
In his final game against CHHS, East’s Ian Levin scored six goals, including four in the first quarter. Levin has 48 goals on the season, along with a team-leading 38 assists.
While the CHHS-East rivalry hasn’t resonated in state championships in recent years as much as the 00s, it’s still intense simply becaus, well ... it’s CHHS-East.
Levin and defenseman Daniel Wittekind received text messages from former players Ryan Lucey and Levi Brown during the week reminding them that East’s past success against Chapel Hill was just that: in the past.
“No matter how good we are and no matter how good Chapel Hill is, we’re always going to have awesome games,” said Levin. “It’s not about who’s better in rivalry games like this. It’s about who cares more.”
Peter Norwood scored two goals for Chapel Hill (7-4), which had trouble maintaining possessions despite a 15-7 faceoff advantage. Brett Buchman had all 15 wins at the center X against three different Wildcats.
Clearing also proved to be a struggle for the Tigers, who committed 17 turnovers.
“We just couldn’t get the ball up the field,” said Chapel Hill coach Brent Voelkel. “We can’t do that against a good team like East Chapel Hill. It seemed like they were scoring easier than we were, and that was the difference in the game.”
“We talked earlier this year about being gritty,” said Koplar. “Every ground ball has to be ours.
“At some point, during games of runs, it’s who wants it more. Chapel Hill left it all on the field, and that’s what this rivalry is all about.
East outshot the Tigers 47-23, but Tigers goalkeeper Andres Holland made 11 saves to keep Chapel Hill in range.
Norwood opened the game with a goal just 1:06 into the first quarter to give CHHS its only lead of the night. East finished the quarter with a 6-2 run, with four of the goals from Levin.
CHHS Kyle Healy opened the second quarter with a sweep overhead score over East goalkeeper Vance Perkins, narrowing the Tiger deficit to 6-3. Buchman won the subsequent faceoff, but the Tigers made three turnovers on clearing attempts before Levin scored his fifth goal with 6:37 remaining in the second quarter.
East led by at least four goals for the rest of the night. Collin MacClennan and Alan Liu finished the scoring for East in the first half.
Chris Cox also had a hat trick for the Wildcats, while Liu registered two points.
After dropping three of its last four, the Tigers now forge into the Conference VI tournament this week, starting on Monday against Northern Vance. In all likelihood, to win the tournament the Tigers would have to beat top-ranked Cardinal Gibbons, who leveled the Tigers 12-1 in March.
“We’re just going to have to regroup,” said Voelkel. “We’re going to break down the film and gear up for the playoffs.”
East goal is much more clear: to reach the heights it hasn’t reached since 2006. That means winning a state championship.
“We want to take the hardware back here,” said Koplar.