Just because it’s the playoffs doesn’t mean you have to give up your composure. Even when trailing. Even when put in a position you’ve never been in before.
Unfazed by an early deficit, Broughton’s boys’ soccer team inched closer to the state championship game on Saturday, defeating Middle Creek 3-2 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
No. 23 seed Middle Creek (13-9-5) had two goals in the game’s first 21 minutes, taking quick 1-0 and 2-1 leads. Though No. 3 Broughton (19-1-2) wasn’t familiar with allowing that many goals in that little time, the Capitals didn’t get frustrated or rushed. Instead, two second-half goals pushed Broughton to the East final, which it will host Tuesday against New Hanover.
“They weren’t flipping out,” Caps coach Nick Wheeler said. “They weren’t screaming at each other, they weren’t screaming at the refs. They just started working harder.”
Trailing 2-1 at halftime, the Caps equalized on a 25-yard screamer by right back Jack Krueger in the 49th minute.
“Usually the dude would step to me, because we had a dude out wide, but instead he went to the guy out wide which kind of left me open. I just cut inside and hit it – got lucky I guess,” said Krueger.
Three minutes later, forward Matt Brickhouse took advantage of an onrushing Middle Creek goalkeeper, heading it over the goalie before tapping it in for a 3-2 lead.
“Earlier, right before the first half ended, I had a flick and I almost got him. He kind of got in-between, in a pickle, and I finally converted it,” Brickhouse said. “We just keep our playing style, which means a lot. We don’t played rushed or anything. We keep our normal tempo and convert our opportunities.”
Broughton, winners of seven straight following its only loss of the season, rotates goalkeepers. Both starter Trey Morton and second-half keeper Frankie Stallings made fingertip saves as the Mustangs had several close tries.
A late scrum in the box was cleared off the line by a Broughton defender with five minutes to go.
“I don’t know how we didn’t score there. We had some really solid chances. Just couldn’t quite find that equalizer,” Middle Creek coach Eddie Wasdell said.
Middle Creek’s year had more peaks than valleys. The Mustangs opened 4-0-3, then fell into a 1-8-2 month-long skid before piecing it all together for a final eight-game win streak entering the Broughton match.
It was the first time the Mustangs had ever made it to the fourth round – one of eight teams left – and it came in the same season they finished fifth in the conference.
“I hate it’s over for the boys. They gave it everything they had, it just wasn’t enough tonight,” Wasdell said. “It was everyone buying in. If we all work as hard as we can and we work for our teammates, it’s going to bring success.”
Middle Creek struck first in the 12th minute as a long throw-in by Chris Wallace was volleyed home by Daniel Lutz. Broughton answered quickly with Brickhouse assisting to Brandon Gettinger in the box, but Middle Creek’s Tyler Conrad hammered in a rebound in the 21st minute.
“We hadn’t played down this year, which was kind of difficult,” Brickhouse said.
New Hanover is coached by T.J. Rennie, son of longtime Duke coach John Rennie, and has lost to the eventual 4A East winner in each of the past two years. Broughton is a game away from going to the state championship, which it has won twice – back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
“The goal is within reach, and it feels good,” Wheeler said.