The old mantra “You never know when it’s Cary versus Apex,” has always rang true in boys soccer no matter the win-loss records from both sides.
On Wednesday, Apex and Cary traded two goals apiece in a 12-minute span in the first half, then each scored on one penalty kick each in the second. To get the game-winner, Apex went with what it did well in the game’s first goal: a set piece.
Nicholas Brothers tucked in the game-winner in an 89th minute scrum to lift the Cougars to a 4-3 overtime victory at Cary’s Paul Cooper Stadium.
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The Cougars (1-1-1, 1-0-1) have had just three games in the season’s first three weeks, but coach Kevin Todd thinks this year’s group is already learning important lessons.
Apex’s first game was a 3-2 loss to N&O No. 2 Broughton in the Wake County Cup.
Its second was a 2-2 tie against Athens Drive.
The win over Cary made it the second one-goal game and second overtime game of a young season. Todd said facing those kinds of tests will help develop a positive mindset.
“You had to stay focused and stay resilient and keep the offensive mentality,” Todd said.
Apex’s set pieces appear to be an important part of its offense again. The Cougars scored two goals thanks in large part to the long throw-ins by Andrew Beall.
“It gave us a boost,” Todd said. “It’s a threat and it really helps us out.”
The Imps (2-4-1, 0-2-0) switched formations to a 5-4-1 to try and stop giving up as many goals. Logan Griffin moved to center back and Quinn Dunphy, coach and athletics director Mike Dunphy’s son, started at left back.
The results were a mixed bag. Cary’s four goals allowed makes for 13 in a three-game span, but the Imps didn’t let in many crosses or let too many attacks get behind them. But the Imps did struggle to mark up in the box at times.
“There were too many times where we defended well, we did all the things I asked us to do, nipped in and intercepted balls, and then all of a sudden we turned it over again,” coach Dunphy said. “And I said to my team ‘You guys must like defending.’ You gotta possess the ball a little bit!”
Cary owns a tie with Broughton, the No. 2 team in the N&O rankings, and now has one-goal losses to Lee County, the 3A state runner-up, and last year’s conference champion in Apex.
But Dunphy’s team is in it for the long haul, hoping for a state playoff appearance.
“It’s not the start we want,” coach Dunphy said. “These conference games don’t mean anything (for a playoff berth) unless you’re the team that wins (the conference). ... Outside of the conference champs, everyone’s overall winning percentage gets thrown in the pot.”
12th minute: A cleared ball falls to an oncoming Cary’s Marvin Rosas, who one-times it from the top of the box (Cary 1, Apex 0).
15th minute: Apex’s Luc Madrid flicks in a header off a Michael Beall throw (Apex 1, Cary 1).
18th minute: Madrid gets his second goal of the game, tapping a through ball from Juan Garcia just past the keeper (Apex 2, Cary 1).
24th minute: Cary’s Payne Russell evens the score with a strike (Cary 2, Apex 2).
Halftime: Apex 2, Cary 2
43rd minute: Cary is awarded a penalty and Lucky Tomasello’s kick goes off the keeper’s mitts and into the goal (Cary 3, Apex 2).
60th minute: Apex is awarded a penalty and Wesley Hair’s rocket evens the score (Apex 3, Cary 3).
End of regulation: Apex 3, Cary 3
89th minute: Nicholas Brothers scores in a scrum seconds before the first overtime period ends (Apex 4, Cary 3).
THEY SAID IT
“It was rewarding because they did persevere through an entire game in which we were down and up and down. Hopefully this is a game we can look back on and say ‘We made the most progress in our season after the Cary game,’” Todd said.