Wilmington Hoggard jumped out to a four-goal lead in the first half and ended Clayton’s run in the NCHSAA 4A boys soccer playoffs with a 5-2 victory Friday evening.
The Comets finished the season 17-5. Hoggard (13-6-4) moved on to the third round and matchup with either Leesville Road or Broughton this week.
The Vikings scored on a pair of long shots — by Jared Robertson and Cesar Cruz — outside of the box to build a 2-0 lead 16 minutes into the half.
“They were able to get one of their best players into space down our right flank by exploiting space behind our backline twice and had two textbook finishes,” said Clayton coach John Asmussen. “The third and fourth goals given up in the first half were on us.”
Robertson and Cruz scored those third and fourth goals as well for the Vikings. Clayton had some solid looks offensively including a great cross from Sean Kimble into the box that gave Alex Roy a shot at a one-timer that sailed just wide of the goal with the score still 1-0.
“I thought we generated opportunities, but did not capitalize on them and against good teams you have to do that,” Asmussen said. “I honestly thought we were winning the midfield, battle but could not do enough in the attacking and defensive thirds of the field.”
Clayton got within 4-1 early in the second half, but couldn’t convert its chances to get closer.
“If we could have cut it to 2 then who knows but that did not happen,” Asmussen said. “The one chance they had in the second half they converted, that was the difference. In the end they finished the chances they had. We aided them by basically giving them two goals, and we didn’t convert the chances we had.”
Cadman Styers scored the final Hoggard goal with nine minutes to play.
“This one game does not diminish what these boys accomplished this year,” Asmussen said. “They had a great year and exceeded expectations by many.”
The Comets reached all four of their preseason goals on the season, including winning a conference championship (their first since 2008), win the JUSA Cup and host and win a playoff match (just their second playoff win since 2007).
Clayton loses 11 seniors to graduation: Kimble, Roy, Juan Alvarado, Stephen Ruiz, Richard Stich, JT Palazzalo, Brandon Sainz, Seth Pope, Casey Eickoff, Tim Jones and Daniel Alioto.