Aaron Latigue helped Holly Springs strike twice in the final nine minutes to take down No. 1 seed Harnett Central 2-1 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
Latigue scored with exactly 9 minutes to go, winning a 50-50 ball after an Eddie Zuniga pass and then curling in the equalizer. Not long after, his deep throw-in found Addison Faw for the game-winner with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left to rally the 17th-seeded Golden Hawks (12-6-3).
His throw-in gives the Hawks five set piece goals in the playoffs.
“I kind of picked him out. (Faw) came up to me and was like ‘Yo, find me in there.’ So I picked him out and he got a little flick on,” Latigue said.
A few key adjustments were key in pulling the Hawks to their first third-round appearance in school history.
“When we were down, we pushed people up and played a 3-5-2 and once we got the first goal we took one off,” Latigue said.
Latigue has made it a habit to come up large in big games.
“He’s a big-game player. You get some of those players who score a lot of goals in meaningless games. Latigue’s the complete opposite. He doesn’t score in the meaningless games,” Holly Springs coach Brian Miller said. “He led by example. From him coming back (from his forward spot) and working hard and winning (50-50 balls), the whole team picked it up.”
Harnett Central (19-2) had led for most of the second half, scoring on a Andres Banuelos 25-yard one-timer in the 47th minute. The ball that curved into the upper left corner, just off the goalkeeper’s fingertips.
“I think we woke up right when that goal went in. The whole team got upset, they got angry and they got high pressure,” Miller said.
Latigue had hit the crossbar in the second half and the Hawks had several more tries that were saved by goalkeeper Dawson Winslow. Central hit the post in the first half.
It was a tough way to go out for coach Johnny Pilkington, who came out of retirement to lead the Trojans to the Greater Neuse River Conference title as he picked up his 300th career win. He took a long pause when thinking about how he could put into words what the 11 seniors meant to him.
“It was just a good group of kids. They embodied everything that we tried to get them to do,” Pilkington said. “It was a real good nucleus of kids. It wouldn’t have mattered who would’ve coached them.”
Holly Springs could host in the next round if Hoggard defeats Laney on Monday in a battle of Wilmington teams. If Laney wins, the Hawks will be on the road for a third straight round come Wednesday.