Apex senior goalkeeper Sammy Camut said it best.
“This conference – anything you thought about what it was supposed to be, it’s just completely different.”
The Southwest Wake Athletic Conference has no favorites anymore, just week-to-week survivors.
On Wednesday, the Apex boys soccer team scored with 1 minute, 15 seconds left in overtime to beat old rival Cary 3-2.
Neither side took the other lightly, and the result was an entertaining 100 minutes of soccer that ended with Will Tomlinson’s final tally.
“We were just pushing at the end and we got a shot on goal. It took a deflection and I ran back post and finished it,” Tomlinson said.
Six of Cary’s seven losses have come by one goal. The Imps (2-7-1, 1-3) are averaging 2.0 goals a game and allowing 2.1, which is marked improvement from last year’s numbers (3.1 allowed, 1.1 scored) that included being shut out seven times.
“When we settle down, are composed and play, we look great. We look dangerous, we’re getting balls in the box and guys are holding the ball up and we’re linking up and our shape is good. And sometimes, when it falls to pieces, it really falls to pieces,” Coach Mike Dunphy said.
Cary hasn’t quite had the breakthrough, but they have earned respect.
Apex’s Aidan Buie sent the game into overtime with an 83rd minute breakaway. He raced down the right flank to set up a 1-v-1 before booting in the goal over Cary goalkeeper Johannes Dietrich, who had stonewalled several Apex attempts in the second half alone.
“Cary’s a good team,” Camut said. “Although I didn’t have to make too many saves, the ones I did were key. They were a dangerous team. It wasn’t easy shots they were taking, they were dangerous crosses.”
Apex, which had just lost in overtime two nights earlier to Athens Drive, had gone up so quickly – on a Cole Pena header in the sixth minute off a Tomlinson corner kick – that Cary had to make changes. The Imps subbed almost immediately afterward, and it paid off later in the half.
“Tonight, I just saw too much of what’s happened before over here and I made two changes really quick,” Dunphy said. “Sometimes as coaches, you’re just playing hunches. I didn’t like the way it was trending. I saw bad things coming.”
In the 29th minute, Cary forced Camut to make a diving save, picking the ball out of the top left corner. The ball fell to Noah Bagherpour and he played it to the penalty area to an open Lucky Tomasello, who tied the match 1-all.
Nine minutes later, Cary doubled its score as Quinn Dunphy went down the left side and sent in a low cross that was tapped in by Ignacio Rojas. Cary led 2-1 at halftime.
“Working hard cures everything, and we weren’t working hard,” Apex coach Kevin Todd said.
Todd said his team played in spurts. But Apex (7-2, 3-1) had the best final spurt. Cary was on the defensive for almost all of overtime before the Cougars found the winning goal.
“It does a lot for your team chemistry when you can win when things aren’t going your way,” Todd said. “When you can win in this kind of struggle, it can’t do anything but help your chemistry and help you overall.”
Coach Dunphy had one challenge for his team, whose only realistic chance at the postseason is to finish in the SWAC’s top three automatic spots.
“What’s going to define our team? The team that almost made it, or the team that made it? Because we’re not going to make it in on our overall record,” Dunphy said.