It took eight rounds of penalty kicks, but Fayetteville Cape Fear ousted Clayton from the NCHSAA 4A playoffs Wednesday night in a match where both teams left wondering about the “what ifs” of th enight. After playing to a 2-all tie through 110 minutes, the Colts took the decision on penalty kicks, 7-6.
The Comets led 2-1 at the half, but couldn’t keep Cape Fear from forcing extra time.
Clayton’s goals came from Stephen Ruiz and Cole Stricker in the first half. Timothy Jones’ throw in led to Ruiz’s goal and Sean Kimble fed Stricker for his as the Comets led 2-1 at the break.
Cape Fear pulled even with 15:49 to play in regulation, putting home a direct kick from 25 yards out that sailed perfectly into the top far corner of the goal.
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The Colts (16-8-1) appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal with 3:45 left in the first overtime but were whistled offsides. The Colts, who played down a man for the entire second half after a yellow-red card, lost another man to a second yellow card with 1:40 left in the first 10-minute overtime.
“We had our chances; they had their chances,” said Clayton coach William Williams. “I’ve always said the man advantage at this level isn’t as much of a factor as everybody wants it to be. Every time the ball was there, there would be 2-3 of their guys around it and 2-3 of our guys.”
Cape Fear had a chance to score in overtime when an attacker got around Clayton goalie J.T. Palazzolo but the Comets’ Cole Stricker was there to clear the ball away from the goal.
The Comets had their own chance to score in the closing seconds of the golden goal period but a blast by Daniel Alioto was blocked and Kimble’s attempt at a one-timer was wide of the goal.
Alioto, Brendan Alexyon, Juan Alvarado, Kimble and Pablo Rosales connected on their penalty kicks for Clayton.
“Penalty kicks are just a tough deal,” said Clayton coach William Williams. “You can’t afford to miss. It’s just how it can go this time of the year for either side.”
The Comets finished the season with a 8-9-2 mark and graduate seven seniors who are all very special to Williams: Alexyon, Giancarlo Salazar, Michael Bynum, Cole Stricker, Aaron Olmo, Adam Saleh and Jose Perez.
“These guys are real special,” Williams said. “They’re the reason I came back to coach the boys. They wanted me to be there with them. This is a group I’ll never forget.
“I’m very proud to have been able to work with them.”