Three rain-related postponements and five days later, Enloe and East Wake finally played their second-round matchup in the NCHSAA 4A boys soccer playoffs Wednesday and the Eagles prevailed, 1-0.
With the win Enloe (12-6-3) snapped the Warriors’ eight-game win streak and set the Eagles up to face No. 3 seeded Cardinal Gibbons on Thursday in third-round action.
The delay caused by heavy rains and poor field conditions forced the Eagles to play back-to-back games, but that doesn’t seem to faze them. Enloe, the No. 27 seed, had to beat No. 6 Pine Forest to reach the second round while East Wake (10-10-2), the No. 22 seed, beat No. 11 Jack Britt.
“We’ve learned that seeding doesn’t mean anything,” Enloe senior midfielder Graham Rex said. “We just need to pump some fluids and get some rest and we’ll be ready to go.”
Eagle senior Yago Santos said Thursday’s game would be a tough transition. Not only were the Eagles in line to play on consecutive nights, they also faced an adjustment from the bumpy, grass field at East Wake to the turf field at Cardinal Gibbons.
“We’re going in hard either way,” Santos said. “It (Wednesday’s game) could have been our last game, that’s what kept us going.”
Enloe had to battle to get the win against a team that had been on a roll of late.
The Eagles controlled the ball most of the first half, but momentum seemed to shift toward the end as the Warriors had a couple of shots on goal. Neither team was able to capitalize on opportunities and they entered halftime in a scoreless tie.
It didn’t take long for fortunes to change as Rex scored off a feed from senior Julian Nazar just three minutes into the second half, for what would stand as the game winner.
“It was at a spot where I like to shoot, at the top of the 18,” Rex said. “It was a little redirect where I could just run up on it and put it where I wanted.”
East Wake coach Michael Howes said it “was a great goal and a perfectly placed shot.”
“There was nothing we could do,” Howes said. “You have to give them credit.”
The Warriors took aim at evening the score, but could not hit the target. Their frenzied attack over the final six minutes of play included a couple of near misses on shots by senior Layne Gairrett and freshman Elvin Lazo, but the Enloe defense was able to turn them away.
“We lost our focus for a second,” Santos said. “We just kept playing hard and we were able to fight them off.”
For the Warriors, the loss put an end to their unlikely playoff run. The team was winless in the first half of conference play then turned things around with a seven-game win streak to end the regular season.
According to Howes, at this point in the season the teams are fairly equal. He said the layoff didn’t help as the game was postponed from Saturday’s original date to Monday, and then postponed again on Monday and Tuesday. He said field conditions were still not ideal, and Enloe was able to handle it better Wednesday night.
“I have nothing but praise for the way the boys have played,” Howes said. “They battled the whole game. It was a good season.”