The momentum had changed, and Millbrook was looking to make it a one-goal game late in the third quarter of its first-round NCHSAA 4A playoff game against Holly Springs on Wednesday night.
But the Golden Hawks stood firm, anchored by brilliant play by goalie Jackson Bingham, and then Will Forrestal took over.
The senior scored two goals in the fourth quarter and assisted on a third as Holly Springs held off the Wildcats 13-8.
The Hawks (9-8) now have a second-round date with East Chapel Hill.
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“It is huge,” said Forrestal, who scored nine goals on the night. “It’s a playoff victory, and it’s our senior year, so it’s something we’ve been working on for the past four years. It’s just huge to us.”
It was equally as deflating for Millbrook (8-6), which led 4-2 in a high-scoring first quarter but couldn’t get its offense going in the second half.
“It’s been a great season,” Wildcats coach Phillip Herndon said. “I’ve never seen a team really improve throughout a season as much as they did. They worked so hard. Tonight was definitely a tough way to end the season, but I live this team. A lot of heart, and they love each other. Just a great season.”
Holly Springs jumped to a 9-5 lead early in the third on Forrestal’s fifth goal, but Millbrook took advantage of a pair of Hawks penalties to cut the lead to 9-7. Then, Mason Boone was whistled for an unnecessary roughness penalty, giving Millbrook another man-advantage situation. Carter Durling got off a good shot for the Wildcats, but Bingham made the save.
By Millbrook not scoring on a 6-on-4 situation, Holly Springs had seized momentum.
“That’s enormous,” Hawks coach Doug Greenberg said. “Automatically, when you got a man down, you’re thinking you’re going to lose some momentum. But just like in most sports, when you have the ability to come back from penalties and get possessions, before you know it, everybody forgets you made a mistake and you build some positives off of it.”
The fourth opened with Bingham making two saves on Josiah Carr, and then Forrestal took charge. He scored after bolting behind the net to make it 10-7, and then whipped a pass to fellow senior Boone for another goal.
After a pair of Millbrook penalties, Forrestal made it 12-7 with 7:06 remaining, and Holly Springs cruised from there.
“Everybody going hard opened up a lot of opportunities,” Forrestal said. “It’s really helpful when you’ve got six guys on the field who know what they’re doing. They’re able to move the ball, able to shoot, able to pass effectively, and it just opened up things. Hey, it just happened to be my night.
“Everybody on our team could do that, and that’s what makes us strong.”
Millbrook had a strong second half to its season, averaging 12.8 goals in going 6-2 to make the playoffs. Carr had four goals, and Anthony Florian added two against Holly Springs, but the Wildcats scored only three times after the middle of the second quarter.
“Sometimes we can get it rolling, but that time … they were locking us down,” Herndon said. “We had trouble getting shots off. At the very end of the game, we were pushing our guys to shoot, and they weren’t doing it. I guess kudos to their defense.”