HIGH POINT – In a boys’ soccer season unlike any other, the Wayne Country Day boys’ soccer team overcame numerous obstacles to reach the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A semifinals.
And to reach the state championship game, the Chargers needed to overcome one more obstacle – Westchester Country Day.
For 91 minutes, the Chargers and the Wildcats were dead even.
Minute 92 proved to be the difference.
Off a corner kick, Westchester’s George Culp headed in the game-winning goal two minutes into the second overtime to lift the Wildcats to a 2-1 win on Tuesday night.
Westchester Country Day advances to play Fayetteville Academy in the state championship game, while Wayne Country Day concludes its season 7-2 overall.
“I thought it was a really good game,” Wayne Country head coach Steve Ellis said. “Overall, defensively, we were fantastic, and we were great. I can’t fault anybody that was on the field.
“It was a fun season with the boys, but it’s a crummy way to end.”
Westchester put a lot of pressure on Wayne Country Day’s defense throughout the first half but failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Wayne Country Day keeper Thomas Sumner made several impressive saves to keep the Wildcats off the board, while the Chargers’ backline kept Westchester’s strikers from getting clean shots off.
“It’s the sixth time in a row we’ve been to the state semifinals,” Ellis said. “The boys were set to step over that line, and we just were a little bit unfortunate toward the end.”
However, the Wildcats limited the Chargers scoring opportunities in the first half. With seconds remaining in the first half, Andrew Sherman’s free-kick sailed into the Westchester keeper’s hands.
The Chargers took a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute when Michael Geer found some space between the Wildcat’s defenders and slipped a shot past Westchester’s keeper.
“It was a really good strike and a really good finish,” Ellis said.
In the 66th minute, Culp tied the game at 1-1 when he took a free-kick from outside the 18-yard box, gathered the deflection, and tucked the ball into the back of the net.
Regulation ended with teams tied at 1-1, and the two teams played 10 minutes of scoreless soccer in the first overtime before Culp headed in the game-winner two minutes into the second overtime.
Seniors Sumner, Tanner Willman, Ben Stuber, Cairnes Edmondson, Will Fickling, Cam Gerrard, Dylan Brown and Rahu Patel all played their final game in a Chargers’ uniform.
“To be honest, that was the best game I’ve seen Tanner Willman play. I thought he was on it the whole time and he didn’t back down,” Ellis said. “Thomas was excellent today. That was probably his best game in a long time. Cam was missing, Cairnes played great, Dylan played great in the middle. They were fantastic from start to finish.”