Carrboro appeared to be in the ideal spot entering Tuesday’s 2A boys’ soccer Eastern Regional championship match. The Jaguars were facing the same foe they had seen in last year’s regional final in Kill Devil Hills First Flight on the same pitch with the same stakes: a state championship berth with a side of revenge.
First Flight (24-0-1) failed to comply with that plan. The Nighthawks dominated play from the opening touch and earned their second consecutive state championship appearance with a 4-0 victory on a foggy night.
Carrboro, who fell to the Nighthawks 3-1 in last year’s regional final, finishes the season with a 22-3-1 mark.
First Flight scored less than five minutes in on a throw in from Graham Smalley that Austin Banks finished up. The pair combined on another goal – after another Smalley throw – with 12 minuets, 46 seconds to play in the half for a 2-0 lead.
Carrboro struggled to get any offense in the first half. The only Jaguars’ shot came on a 30-yard direct kick by Hans Singh with 10 minutes left in the half.
“We didn’t have anything close to our ‘A’ game tonight, and that’s on us,” Carrboro coach Jared Drexler said. “We prepared but just weren’t there mentally. If you had told me today that we were going to come down here and lose 4-0 this afternoon, I would have told you, ‘You’re crazy.’
“We knew they had the ability to use long throws well. We just didn’t handle it well.”
The Jaguars tried to overcome the challenge of the 231-mile, one-way trek from Rock Haven Road to the shadow of the Wright Brothers Memorial by getting into town early, stretching their legs around the monument and on the beach. It didn’t seem to make much difference.
The lead held at two goals for the first 11 minutes of the second half when Smalley took a lead pass near midfield and raced around a Jaguars’ defender before dropping the goal home.
“We changed our formations and came at them in different ways that what they were expecting,” First Flight coach Juan Ramirez said. “We have so many guys with so much to offer the team on the field. I think (Carrboro) was surprised with the different people we were sending up.”
The Nighthawks have outscored their opponents in the playoffs 17-3.
Banks completed his hat trick six minutes after Smalley’s goal, dropping a left-footed shot by Carrboro keeper Richard Cato on the near side for a 4-0 lead.
First Flight will face Newton-Conover, a 1-0 winner on a goal in the final minute of regulation against Franklinton, in the state championship match Saturday in Raleigh.