Apex defeated Athens Drive for the third time this season in a 15-9 win in the NCHSAA 4A boys lacrosse quarterfinals.
Apex will take on another Southwest Wake Athletic Conference foe, Middle Creek, on Tuesday. The Cougars split the season series the Mustangs and were named co-conference champs.
“The kids have come together more and more,” Apex coach John Hayden said. “They’re playing as a team and playing for each other; that’s what you want. We’re playing our best right now in the playoffs.”
Brendan Farrell notched four goals for Apex (18-2) and Conor Gronbach scored three for Athens Drive (13-7).
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Both teams traded blows throughout the game as emotions ran high.
Athens Drive was called for four penalties in the opening minutes of the game, leaving them shorthanded for much of the first quarter. The Jaguars were able to control faceoffs and create scoring opportunities, but were consistently denied by the stingy Apex defense and quickly found themselves down 4-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Athens Drive came back strong to start the second quarter with two goals, but Apex responded with four unanswered goals to make its lead a comfortable one; 8-3 at halftime.
Hayden says that he emphasizes focus as his team edges nearer to a chance for a third consecutive state championship game appearance.
“(We have to) focus on what we do, what we’re good at, who the next guy is, and what we’ve got to do to beat that guy,” he said.