The Charlotte Catholic Cougars refused to be derailed by the South Mecklenburg Sabres on Wednesday night in the third round of the N.C. 4A soccer playoffs. The stadium was nearly full as both student bodies came out in full force.
The No. 1 seeded Cougars fell behind 1-0 early but scored six unanswered goals en route to a 6-1 victory against 25th seed South Meck.
Catholic broke open a close game with a three-goal barrage during an eight-minute span early in the second half. In three state playoff games, Catholic has outscored its opponents 23-1.
Catholic (21-2-1) has rarely been behind all season, but found itself down a goal just six minutes into the match.
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“Our boys were jumpy; we can’t clear a ball, everyone’s taking wild swings and the stadium was too loud,” said Cougars coach Oscar Del Pino. “Having that little bit of pressure early on, we weren’t ready for it. We were too hyped up.”
The Sabres (15-7-2) took the lead in the sixth minute when Catholic failed to clear the ball deep in its own end. Ethan DeSilva pounced on the loose ball from close range and buried the shot for a 1-0 lead.
“After they scored we were almost a little panicked,” said Cougars senior midfielder Brendan McDonough. “The halftime calmed us down; we went out and got an early goal and after that, we played our game.”
McDonough had two goals and an assist for the Cougars, with the other Catholic goals coming from Jamir James, Benton Stockley, Jordan Poff and Sean Carlin. The Cougars will play the Lake Norman-Hough winner (also played Wednesday night) at home Saturday at 7 p.m. in the final four of the Western 4A playoffs.
After the early South Meck goal, the Cougars tied it in the 15th minute when Poff was pulled down in the penalty area, resulting in a Catholic penalty kick. McDonough delivered.
The Cougars got a late first-half goal on a 50-yard wire-to-wire solo run. James secured the ball at midfield and dribbled through the South Meck defense to score in the 34th for a 2-1 Catholic halftime advantage, a lead the Cougars would not relinquish.
What does Del Pino expect in Catholic’s next matchup against the Lake Norman-Hough winner?
“Both are conference champs; if you look at their schedules they’ve played tough teams, gotten good wins, and we’ll just have to go out and see how we match up,” he said.