East Wake Academy knew well the challenge it was up against in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A boys soccer tournament.
The Eagles (8-13-1, 4-12 NCAC) had lost to Franklin Academy in North Central Athletic Conference matchups twice during the regular season, shut out both times.
A conference opponent wasn’t the ideal first-round matchup for the Eagles, head coach Michael Sloop said, but the team knew it was all or nothing against a Franklin Academy (16-3-2, 14-2) team that made it to the quarterfinals of last year’s state tournament.
“I told them it was not going to be easy given the history between the two schools,” Sloop said. “There’s always kind of a intra-rivalry within our conference with Franklin Academy and East Wake. They’re two of the closer schools geographically so we like to think that we have a little bit of rivalry together.”
Franklin Academy again came out on top, besting the Eagles 7-1 last Wednesday to bring East Wake Academy’s season to a close.
The Eagles stuck with the Patriots early on. Franklin Academy scored twice in the first 15 minutes before junior Ross Powell found senior Angelo Cabrera to put the Eagles on the board.
East Wake Academy had momentum and trailed by just a goal in the 40th minute before Franklin Academy scored in the final seconds of the first half to go ahead 3-1.
“The third goal sucked the life out of us,” Sloop said. “We easily the last 10 minutes of the half had momentum on our side. We had a lot of set pieces, whether it be corner kicks or free kicks, that went our way. We definitely were pressuring hard and the goal that we got really livened us up a bit.
“I told them to try to shake it off in the second half, but unfortunately we had some miscommunication on the field, we hung our head after the fourth and fifth goals early in the second half, and they just kind of sealed the deal and put it to us late in the game.”
Peter Kassay, Nick Hughes and Jacob Faulkner each had two goals for the Patriots. Emil Petersen added one goal and Zack Hanson contributed four assists.
First-year Franklin Academy coach Jay Paradowski said he made sure that the Patriots didn’t relax with their halftime lead and played with enough intensity to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
“We told them that it’s still a game,” Paradowski said. “You’ve got to come out hard, and I think that we showed that we came out hard. I think the ball was only on our side like four times in the second half and they didn’t have any momentum or anything. I think that we just knew that this is our time we had to bring it up because now the next round is coming around.”
The No. 9 seed Patriots moved on to face No. 25 North Duplin in the second round on Saturday.
The Eagles lose three seniors: Cabrera, Nate Pritchard and Ethan Wrenn, but Sloop could have a nine-man senior class next season, in addition to some potential future impact players from the middle school.
“We prepared ourselves in practice,” Sloop said. “We did the best that we could. We trained hard, and I told them at the end of the day as long as they gave 110 percent and left it all on the field, that’s all I could ask of them.”