John Walden scored two goals Wednesday night to lead Chapel Hill to a 4-1 defeat of Cardinal Gibbons, securing for the Tigers their second consecutive Big Eight Conference Championship.
Mateo Ortez and Nick Hebert also scored for the Tigers (17-4-1), ranked No. 4 among the state’s 3A teams and No. 6 in the Triangle by the News & Observer. They finished undefeated in conference play at 14-0-0 for the second straight year.
Tiger goalkeeper Hugh Kelly made six saves.
The only two losses this year for Cardinal Gibbons (18-2-1, 12-2-0) have come against the Tigers.
The Crusaders had won seven consecutive matches – three by shutout – since losing 4-2 Sept. 29 in Raleigh to Chapel Hill. They outscored those seven opponents 43-3.
Wednesday’s result was just the second time this season that Cardinal Gibbons, ranked No. 2 in the Triangle by the N&O, gave up more than two goals in any match.
The Crusaders were aggressive in the opening minutes Wednesday at Chapel Hill, firing three shots on net in the opening two minutes.
Cardinal Gibbons’s only goal came from sophomore Drew Rabil, after the Tigers turned the ball over on the second-half kickoff. Senior Carl Polambaro forced the steal and fed Rabil to put the Crusaders on the board and narrow the Tigers’ lead to 2-1.
Walden ended the Crusaders’ threat to tie with his goal with 22:07 remaining, and Hebert added an insurance goal with 14:57 left.
Walden scored the opening goal off an assist from junior midfielder Jacob Owens with 29:12 remaining in the first half. Kelly made an extended feed to Owens, which led to a Chapel Hill odd-man rush.
Two minutes later, Ortez took a pass from Daniel Henao and fired the ball over Crusader goalkeeper Gavin Smith to give the Tigers a 2-0 halftime lead.
Chapel Hill’s conference championship is the first for head coach Jason Curtis, who replaced Ron Benson after his retirement last June.