Six years ago, Lee County handed Brad Wicker the task of rebuilding the Yellow Jackets’ boys soccer program that had sunk to a winless 0-22 record. He accepted without having to be asked twice.
“I played at Lee,” Wicker explained. “We had good teams. We played in those days with good competition in the Cap-8. I wanted to bring back the Yellow Jacket pride.”
Wicker’s rebuilding effort was rewarded in his sixth year with Lee County’s first trip to a N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship and the 3A East regional title. The season ended with a 2-0 loss to West Region champion Weddington Saturday night at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer complex, but the Yellow Jackets’ record of 25-4-1 has turned 0-22 into ancient history.
The teams played to a 0-0 halftime tie, but Weddington’s Mitchell Van Dyne scored five minutes into the second half and Mason Peeler added a 2-0 cushion goal with 18:16 remaining. Peeler’s goal came moments after goalie Santana Perez made a diving save of a Peeler shot.
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“I’m proud of how hard my kids worked this year, but we played a good team that was better than us tonight,” Wicker said. “We had our chances, but we didn’t convert.”
Wicker’s first year was 1-19, but the rebuilding continued until the first winning season of 10-9-1 in his fourth season in the 2012-13 school year. The fourth year, he joined the high school campus after previously teaching at West Lee Middle School. The program remained onward and upward since then.
Lee was a respectable 16-10 last year before this season’s breakthrough.
Lee County principal Kenna Wilson was appointed three years ago and soon realized Wicker’s value. She is among educators that recognize the value of a successful athletic programs to a school’s hallways and the community overall.
“Coach Wicker is humble, committed and focused,” Wilson said. “His players follow him on the field and school. They are true examples of what we look for in young people in our young men in our community.”
In the first half, Lee senior goalie Hunter Watson recorded a spectacular double save with 6:27 remaining in the first half to preserve the shutout. He blocked a head-on shot, but he remained on his feet and shuffled to his left to catch the rebound shot that so often finds the net.
Lee freshman Osciel Dominguez had the best chance to score 12 minutes into the first half. He stroked a line drive from the right side that was high but low enough to sneak under the cross bar. It was a mature shot that belied his youth, but Weddington goalie Ben Fletcher got one hand on the ball to send it over the crossbar.