Playing from behind is something the Greenfield School boys soccer team wasn’t used to doing. That is, until the postseason.
The N&O’s No. 21-ranked Knights gave up the first goal in all three N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A playoff games.
But just like the quarterfinal and semifinal round victories, they didn’t trail for very long; capturing the school’s 14th state championship since 1989 with a 3-1 victory over No. 20 Wayne Country Day on Saturday afternoon on the pitch at Ben Forbes Field.
“They reacted the same way them have the last two games,” Greenfield head coach Randol Mendoza said. “It’s not a good trend to have, especially in the playoffs, falling behind early. But it seems they need a goal to wake up, and it was a great reaction each time.”
Using a compact, counter-attacking style, the Chargers got a breakaway goal in the ninth minute as junior midfielder Benjamin Cohen won a 50-50 ball and quickly darted up the field. The midfielder quickly passed to a streaking Hunter Bryson and the junior forward beat Knights goalkeeper Cedric Kirby.
“No worries,” Kirby said. “With our offense, I knew we’d get it back.”
He was prophetic, as just two minutes and 29 seconds later, the Knights got one of eight corner kicks in the match and converted.
A quick tap by eighth-grader Jarrett Smith to James Wells, the state’s leading scorer, started the play. Wells dribbled twice before rifling a cross into the box where junior midfielder Aregnis Rodriquez headed the ball past keeper Thomas Sumner to tie the game up.
“Aregnis just wanted it more than everyone else,” said Wells, who had a hand in all three Greenfield scores.
Wells had a chance just two minutes later on another corner, but his blast was stuffed by Sumner, an eighth-grader who was called to duty for the postseason by WCDS head coach Steve Ellis after suspensions cost the Chargers their normal keeper.
“He was great today,” Ellis said. “We knew Greenfield would try to expose it, taking some shots. He made some phenomenal saves.”
The Chargers had a huge chance with a direct kick from 19 yards away in the 19th. Senior Noah Adkins bent his shot around the wall where Kirby made the save. Seconds later, Adkins got the ball back and sent another shot screaming, but it bent wide left.
As the first half wound down, the Greenfield attack controlled possession and finally found a seam. Rodriguez passed to Wells just inside the penalty area in the 37th minute. The forward got his 22nd assist of the year as senior Logan Johnson belted a one-timer into the net.
“We were happy with Greenfield to be switching it and sending it back. We wanted that with us being so compact,” Ellis said. “Our backline and our midfield had to drop back a little too much, and that was the real difference.”
In the 58th minute, Wells capped his stellar Knights career with his 51st goal of the season off an assist by his younger brother Cullen.
“It feels great, I’m speechless really,” Wells said of the championship. “To come up short the last three years and to beat a team that is our rivals, there is no better feeling in the world.”
Kirby made sure it wouldn’t get interesting with a foot save from a shot by Bryson in the 72nd.