An acrobatic scorpion kick by sophomore Elvin Lazo off a feed from freshman Eduardo Lopez proved to be the deciding goal as No. 3-seeded East Wake fended off No. 14 Jack Britt, 3-2, in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A soccer playoffs Saturday.
“That was definitely SportsCenter highlight worthy,” said Warriors coach Jonathan Hasbrouck. “It was a great ball across and he (Lazo) was on it. He ran past it and reached back with his leg to knock it in.”
Hasbrouck said he overheard Buccaneers players saying if they were going to lose a game, that was the goal to lose it on. The win marked the ninth straight for the Warriors (15-6-2), who moved on to host Broughton (15-6-2) on Election Day Tuesday. The Capitals beat Cardinal Gibbons 4-2 to advance to the second round.
Saturday’s match was physical from the outset as the Warriors battled but the Bucs tried to take advantage of their size in the middle. East Wake put the pressure on early with a few good shots on goal, but was unable to capitalize.
Jack Britt scored first, at the 23:54 mark of the first half, when junior Derrick Koenig shot one past charging senior goal keeper Miguel Valdivia. The Warriors returned the favor when senior Vicente Gallardo headed home a corner kick by senior Khadeem Dublin to even the score about a minute later.
With 11:27 left in the half, Koenig picked up a second goal to give Jack Britt a 2-1 lead. The Warriors came storming back, but just missed on a cross when Bucs junior goal keeper Hunter Novy made a diving save of a laser shot by Gallardo to maintain the lead going into the break.
The physical play continued into the second half, when Jack Britt’s defenders fouled Lazo in the box resulting in a penalty kick. Senior Garrett Johnson took the kick and tied the game at 2-2.
Then came Lazo’s memorable goal with 5:58 left in the game, which had the East Wake fans and bench on their feet.
“I was just trying to make the goal,” Lazo said. “I don’t know how, I just knew I was going to make it. I didn’t want the win streak to end. I didn’t want it to go to waste.”
Gallardo said the goal was “amazing and breathtaking,” but the key to the Warriors’ win was keeping their heads in the game and not giving up.
“We just had to stay strong,” Gallardo said. “They played rough so we had to play rough, too. We kept playing at 100 percent even though they kept scoring.”
Hasbrouck said he was pleased with the way the team responded to being down. He said for the Warriors to battle from behind two times showed a great deal of character.
A big key to the comeback and East Wake’s surge over the second half of the season has been the play in the midfield.
“They haven’t gotten a lot of credit, but seniors Michael Merletti and Jhoan Mejia have been a big part of our second-half push,” Hasbrouck said. “They have been the foundation of our success over the course of our nine-game win streak.”
Merletti and Mejia were tough in the middle all night despite being matched against much bigger and more physical counterparts, winning hard-fought possessions and feeding the ball forward to facilitate the Warriors’ offense.
No. 12 Knightdale 1, No. 5 Cape Fear 0: The Knights (14-6-3) got an upset win over the Colts (17-4-2) in 4A boys soccer action in Fayetteville, thanks to a first-half goal by senior forward Charles Pumbu off a feed by Brooks Poirier in the 18th minute. Knightdale advanced for second-round match at No. 4-seeded Millbrook.
No. 4 Riverside 2, No. 13 East Wake Academy 2: The score on this 1A boys matchup looks like a tie, because it was at the end end of two overtimes, but Riverside (9-8-1) edged out the Eagles (9-14-1) by winning a shootout, 4-2. Each team scored in the second half to send the game to overtime. The Knights scored in the first 10-minute OT, and the Eagles got the equalizer in the second, extra period.
No. 1 Bunn 4, No. 16 North Lenoir 0: Top-seeded Bunn (18-1-2) eased past No. 16 North Lenoir (7-1) in the opening round of the 2A boys soccer playoffs. The Wildcats hit the gas in the second half after leading by just a goal at halftime. Bunn was left facing a second-round match with No. 8-seed North Pitt (first round winner over No. 9 South Columbus) Tuesday.
No. 6 Corinth Holders 1, No. 11 Cedar Ridge 0: The Pirates (16-5-2) scored in the first half and it proved enough to dismiss the Fighting Red Wolves (10-6-4) in the opening round of the 3A boys soccer playoffs. Corinth moved on for a second-round game at No. 3-seeded Lee County, which won 5-1 over J.F. Webb.