Matt Brickhouse was nervous heading into Broughton’s regional final match against New Hanover. The senior striker, who would lead the Caps with a hat trick, wasn’t alone, according to Caps head coach Nick Wheeler, who said he had to temper some of the team’s excitement before the game.
“They were so excited for this game. I had to calm them down,” Wheeler said. “I was afraid their first touch would have gone 60 yards, so the fact that they can control their excitement is good, but they were up for it. They were ready to roll.”
Broughton (20-1-2) was able to control that energy and use it to its advantage, as the Caps rode a 5-2 win over New Hanover (21-7) to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East title and a chance to play for the state championship Saturday.
“It feels great,” an out-of-breath Brickhouse said after posing for pictures with the regional plaque with teammates. “It feels amazing. We want to win it all.”
Brickhouse, along with fellow seniors Chris Vlahoplus and Brandon Gettinger, scored for the Caps to help make sure their Broughton careers stretched as far as they could – to the state championship match.
It will be the second consecutive year that a Cap Eight team will play for the 4A state title. Sanderson, which handed Broughton its only loss this season, lost in the finals last year.
The Caps have turned things around this year, now set to face Winston-Salem Reagan at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field a year after falling in the second round of the the state playoffs with an 11-9-2 finish in 2013.
A major difference has been a group of Caps players who decided to play high school soccer this season instead of taking the season off to play club ball.
“They all talked, and they all decided, ‘Hey, let’s play high school. We’ll have a good time.’ So it’s really nice to have that buy-in.”
Brickhouse scored the Caps’ first goal on an assist from junior Ibrahim Mohamud in the 17th minute. Mohamud later found Vlahoplus in the 32nd minute to put the Caps up 2-0 before the half.
Broughton didn’t let up after the intermission, as Brickhouse put the Caps up by 3 early in the half on an assist from junior Elvis Wiredu in the 43rd. That insurance goal paid off as New Hanover scored on an Ian Bennett penalty kick after a foul in the box five minutes later, and again on a Franco Fernandez goal in the 58th to make it a one-goal game.
Brickhouse, with a hot foot, knew the Caps needed another goal to turn momentum back in their favor. He delivered on an assist from sophomore Abdulle Ibrahim in the 69th, and Gettinger scored the Caps’ final goal in the 73rd.
“We have kids who just don’t know how to quit, and that’s great,” Wheeler said.
All four classifications will play their championship matches at Dail Soccer Field, but the NCHSAA plans to announce game times Wednesday.
“I again don’t know anything about (Reagan), just like I didn’t know anything about (New Hanover),” Wheeler said, “but I’m sure to make it this far, they’re obviously a good team, so it’s going to be a heck of a game, I’m sure.”