The Knightdale boys soccer team ran out of surprises Tuesday.
After upsetting higher-seeded Cape Fear three days earlier, the Knights couldn’t overcome an early two-goal deficit en route to a 4-2 loss to host Millbrook in a N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A second-round match.
Four different players scored goals for the fourth-seeded Wildcats (19-4-1), who will visit top-seeded Green Hope on Thursday in the 4A East third round. No. 12-seeded Knightdale, which edged fifth-seeded Cape Fear, 1-0, in a first-round match on Saturday, finishes 14-7-3.
“We knew going into the game we were the underdog,” Knightdale coach Aaron Steele said. “I just tried to make sure we had zero pressure. We were just going to give them everything we had.”
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Millbrook did its part from the onset to quell any ideas of a Knightdale upset, striking quickly for the match’s first goal when Harrison Clark’s long throw-in from the left sideline was headed into the right side of the net by Michael Pasca in traffic to put the Wildcats up 1-0 just 5 minutes, 40 seconds into play.
Zack Thomas made it 2-0 later in the first half, scoring on a header off a corner kick from Matt Bulmer with 11:45 remaining.
“Early goals are great for us, it’s great for confidence but also helps with our game plan,” Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said. “We want to possess the ball and control the flow of the game, and when you have a 1-0 or 2-0 lead, it makes your possession demoralizing for the opponent.”
Knightdale did manage to make things interesting in the waning moments of the first half, capitalizing on a miscue to draw within a goal just before halftime. Millbrook goalie Grafton Potter shanked an attempted clear, the ball softly rolling to a wide-open Charles Pumbu inside the box, who easily deposited the ball into the open net from about 15 yards out with 46.1 seconds remaining to cut Millbrook’s lead to 2-1.
The goal seemingly provided a lift to Knightdale’s level of play, as the Knights began to garner some scoring chances early in the second half. The best of those came with about 27 minutes remaining on a 30-yard free kick Victor Vargas that required a leaping save by goalie Noah Davison, who took over for Potter for the second half.
However, Millbrook eventually regained control, scoring twice in a span of just under five minutes to seal it.
August Majtenyi scored with 15:55 left off a gorgeous cross from Clark to make it 3-1, and Alex Combs added Millbrook’s final goal after stealing the ball and booting an arching 25-yard shot over Knightdale goalie Eric Hill and into the net with 11:45 to go.
“We tried our best, I think we gave up a bit of a height advantage,” Knightdale coach Aaron Steele said. “We’re not the biggest team, but I thought we had some spells we did a good job of coming down both sides, I think if we had some patience and made the extra pass we might have (created) more chances.”
Josh Weddle scored with 4:06 remaining for the match’s final goal. One of 11 seniors on Knightdale’s roster, Weddle was disappointed in the outcome obviously but pleased with his team’s season. The Knights finished second behind East Wake in the Greater Neuse River Conference.
“It’s been a fantastic season for us, for what we accomplished compared to last year,” Weddle said. “To come to state playoffs for the first time since 2009 has been a blessing...what is special about our team, no matter what the score, we never give up.”