It was an unlikely pairing that nearly produced an N.C. 4A boys' soccer championship for Myers Park High.
Mustangs sophomore Joe Trenning - called up from the junior varsity for this exact moment - stood with the ball in his hands, several yards back from the sideline. Waiting about 25 yards away, near the top of the penalty box, was Erick Suarez, Myers Park's skillful, star forward who had scored 37 goals.
Fewer than 10 seconds remained in the second overtime of the state final against Cary's Green Hope on Nov. 19 at WakeMed Stadium in Cary. The Eagles led 2-1 but were hanging on by the barest of threads: The Mustangs had been mounting wave after wave of attacks on the Green Hope goal.
Myers Park coach Bucky McCarley had put Trenning in the game, not so much for what he could do with his feet (although he was the JV team's scoring leader), but for his long, powerful throw-ins.
Twice during the final, frantic minute, Trenning threw the ball into the Falcons box - only to have it cleared both times - the first headed away, the second kicked. That second clear produced a third Mustangs throw-in.
Trenning took it as the clock ticked below 10 seconds.
This time, Trenning found Suarez on the back post. Suarez had his back to the goal and jumped, hitching his feet and a performing an over-the-shoulder "bicycle kick," one of the toughest maneuvers in soccer.
Suarez's shot flew over a crowd of players back across the goal mouth.
With Green Hope's goalkeeper beaten, the ball bounced in front of the goal. As it continued toward the goal, the clock hit zero. The ball then hit the inside of the post and went in.
The referee didn't allow the goal.
The state title belonged to Green Hope.
In N.C. high school soccer, when time expires, the game ends, wherever the ball happens to be.
McCarley argued briefly that the goal should have counted, but he knew it was a dispute he couldn't win. He said his players were upset, but not so much that they didn't enjoy their postgame meal at a steakhouse and the bus ride back to Charlotte.
McCarley hopes the Mustangs took several lessons from the loss, not the least of which was how well they handled the disappointment. But there was something else.
"You can never put a ceiling on a player," said McCarley. "I though I'd seen Erick do everything before, then he pulls something out his pocket that only a creative player like him can do. Joe has no idea he's going to be such a key player before those moments, yet he comes through. You've got the top-of-the-roster player and the bottom-of-the-roster player, both doing their jobs. Everybody knew their role. And, as far as I'm concerned, it worked."