Broughton soccer had high hopes after turning around its early struggles. Last year’s Cap-8 Conference champion had four losses in one month at the beginning of the season, which was more than its total number of losses in 2014 (two).
So Elvis Wiredu and his senior companions held a team meeting in attempt to ease the discouragement some of the younger players experienced after the first few setbacks.
The Capitals wound up muscling their way to a second-place finish in the conference behind Leesville Road – not exactly the plan for the defending conference champs, but it was more than enough to reach the playoffs.
The high hopes continued at that point but would be short-lived in the postseason when Broughton lost Wiredu, its leading scorer headed to play at UNC Asheville next season, after the first round. The 5-foot-8 forward suffered a concussion and was only able to play in the 3-0 win over South View, where he scored twice.
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“I like our chances a whole lot more if he hadn’t been injured,” Broughton coach Nick Wheeler said of Wiredu.
Broughton scored more goals in its first-round playoff victory that it would through its next three postseason matches. Its hopeful season ended with a 2-0 loss at Wilmington Laney on Nov. 14, one week shy of the state finals.
If I were to play, I believe we would have been in the state finals this Saturday.
Broughton senior Elvis Wiredu
With Wiredu out, the Capitals had to emphasize their defense through a slew of unexpected changes accompanying the loss of one of their leaders.
Their second-round game against Leesville, a payback-victory over the conference champs, was delayed two days because of rain. Broughton had to face the Pride and Wilmington Hoggard on Astroturf, an artificial surface on which the Caps had never trained.
In a wild playoff run, Wheeler said others compensated for Wiredu’s absence.
The Capitals’ leading scorer Elvis Wiredu only played in the first playoff match before suffering a concussion. He led the Capitals with 25 goals and 58 points in his senior season.
“We really put a serious emphasis on defense. Our goalie played well, our senior captains Bryant O’Neal and Grant Tyler played awesome,” Wheeler said. “Liam Wall score the game winner (against Leesville), also a senior. Jesse Dean probably played the best two games of his career, so we had a lot of other seniors step up and lead the way, which is impressive.
“(When Elvis got injured), it changed our game plan.”
Wiredu scored 25 goals and recorded 58 points and eight assists this season to lead the Caps. His respective hat tricks in a Millbrook win and a Heritage tie down the stretch of the regular season boosted the team to its second-place finish in the conference.
Best of all for Wheeler and the Caps was Wiredu’s leadership after playing for Broughton just two seasons.
“I was really sad when I found out I wasn’t able to play. I was one of the big factors on the team,” Wiredu said days before the state soccer championship. “I was still there for the team, like to cheer them up and talk to them about how to play. I was there supporting them, telling them I’m not the best player on the field, everybody on the field is really good. If you keep on playing together, you can achieve something bigger than me being on the field.”
Senior Ibrahim Mohamud, the Caps’ second-leading scorer (18), used a single goal to get past Wilmington Hoggard in the third round, keeping Broughton alive for one final game.
After two playoff matches at the CASL soccer fields in Raleigh, the Caps traveled to more unfamiliar territory at Wilmington Laney – which is playing for a state championship on Saturday at N.C. State against the west’s top seed South Mecklenburg out of Charlotte.
Though they didn’t close as expected, the senior-laden Caps accomplished a lot this year. They had a strong conference finish and made a run in the playoffs as the No. 12 seed. The seniors exit having kept intact a blemish-free home record the last two years; Broughton hasn’t lost at home since October 2013, going 22-0-4 since then.
Through the notable soccer success, one thought remained for Wiredu if he hadn’t been injured: “I believe we would have gone further. If I were to play, I believe we would have been in the state finals this Saturday.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan