Browns Summit, NC – Gray Stone Gray, Franklin Academy, First Flight, and South Mecklenburg take home top honors in the 2023 NCHSAA Men’s Soccer Championships.
Gray Stone Clinches First-Ever State Championship in 3-1 Win in 1A Title Match
BROWNS SUMMIT –The NCHSAA 1A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match had high energy from both the field and the stands as Gray Stone Day earned a 3-1 win over Hobbton.
Hobbton was first to the scoreboard in the 19th minute through a corner kick from sophomore Ricardo Diaz that found the forehead of junior Ever Reyes and then the back of the net.
Responding with tight passes and quick runs, Gray Stone was able to secure a goal to tie it up 1-1 heading into halftime. Senior Desmond Bullard from Gray Stone blasted a shot from outside the box and found the back of the goal.
The Wildcats were quick on their feet, often out-running the Knights with their agility and speed. Notably, Diaz and sophomore Christopher Galeano were able to run up and down the field for most of the game. However, the Knights had height on their side, which helped with their dominance in the second half. Senior Arkyn Pethel was able to score after following a deflected shot from Bullard, pushing Gray Stone Day in front 2-1 in the 51st minute.
In the 58th minute, Bullard scored again of an assist from sophomore Donovan Christlieb, securing a 3-1 lead that would last for the rest of the game.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 1A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match were Ever Reyes from Hobbton and Michael Burleson from Gray Stone.
The NCHSAA is proud to partner with Wells Fargo to present the Most Valued Player award in the 1A State Championship match to Desmond Bullard from Gray Stone.
“Having 11 Seniors on our team, they had a bad taste in their mouth losing in the 3rd round last year,” said Gray Stone Head Coach Bradley Harrington. “They had a taste of championship-level play as Freshmen and Sophomores, so they were ready to meet that level this year.”
Bullard added that “last season taught us that we can compete with anybody. Even when everyone thinks the other team is better than you and you’re the underdogs, it doesn’t mean anything. Go out and play your game, and good things can happen.”
In a post-game interview, Hobbton Head Coach Jonathan Jacobs noted how meaningful this appearance was for the Hobbton community.
Hobbton finished the season with a 23-3-1 record. This is Hobbton’s first-ever appearance in the state championship match.
“In our school, this was the first state championship appearance for Hobbton sports since 1993, so it was a big accomplishment for the boys,” Hobbton Head Coach Jonathan Jacobs said. “I think this was such a big night for our community that a team has made it to a state championship. The fans got on our backs and just helped us get here.”
— Allison Shuldt
Franklin Academy rolls to a 5-0 Win over Community School of Davidson in the 2A Title Match
BROWNS SUMMIT — In a rematch of the 2015 NCHSAA 1A Men’s Soccer State Championship match, Franklin Academy rolled to a 5-0 win over Community School of Davidson.
With agility and athleticism, the hustle from both teams was notable. Capitalizing on that strength, Franklin Academy was able to take it to the next level to secure an early lead from a goal from junior Logan Hawley in just the second minute of the match — assisted by senior Nick Fitzgerald.
In the rest of the first half, the Patriots were able to keep up their momentum with two more goals. Dribbling around Community School of David Senior Goalie Charles Bloom, who came out of the net, Fitzgerald clipped the ball in off of an assist from senior Holt Lane. Lane added the team’s third goal before intermission.
Community School of Davidson senior Preston Cock had a strong showing in the second half but sophomore Goalie Noah Lanford was able to keep him at bay, securing a shutout win for the Patriots.
In the 70th minute, Fitzgerald added another goal for the Patriots after rebounding his own saved shot.
“It was the perfect ending. In my Freshman year, we lost in the State Championship, and ever since then, I’ve just wanted this so badly,” Fitzgerald said. “The whole season, we’ve been working towards this, and now we got it.”
Two minutes later, freshman Chase Liner got a clear shot from the top of the box and put a bow on the 5-0 win.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 2A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match were Quinn Fotheringham from Franklin Academy and Charles Bloom from Community School of Davidson.
The NCHSAA is proud to partner with Wells Fargo to present the Most Valued Player award in the 2A State Championship match to Nick Fitzgerald from Franklin Academy.
Franklin Academy finished the season with a 19-4-3 record. The Patriots began the playoffs in the East Region ranked #2 in the state, finishing as East Regional champions. This is Franklin Academy’s 5th appearance in the state finals, winning the championship title in 2015, 2019, and now 2023 and being runner-up in 2017 and 2021. This was Franklin Academy’s first appearance in the State Championship as a 2A school. Their appearances before this were as a 1A school.
This was Community School of Davidson’s 3rd appearance in the state finals, being runner-up in 2015, 2018, and now 2023. This was Community School of Davidson’s first appearance in the State Championship as a 2A school. Their appearances before this were as a 1A school.
“I told my guys to be proud of the season you know,” Community School of Davidson Head Coach Lee Ennis said. “It wasn’t our night and Franklin was the better team tonight. That’s why you work as hard as you do all season long. You try to reach this point and you hope that it comes together on that one night, and sometimes it doesn’t and it didn’t for us tonight.”
— Allison Shuldt
First Flight Soars to Victory in 3A Title Match
BROWNS SUMMIT — It was all gas, no brakes for First Flight as they concluded an undefeated season with a 3-0 shutout against Hickory, who were the reigning state champions, to win their second NCHSAA Men’s Soccer Championship.
Both the Nighthawks and Red Tornadoes defenders made strong plays early as goalie Colin Rhodes from First Flight made two saves and senior goalie Watts Tate from Hickory made three saves early in the first half.
First Flight was the first to score as they found the net in the 17th minute. Nathan Tsonev made the connection to Cam Summerton on a corner kick.
Keeping up with their momentum, First Flight’s Seth Albright assisted Curren Breiholz in the 39th minute to take a 2-0 lead for the Nighthawks going into halftime.
Kicking off the second half, Marvin Hernandez took a chance for a power shot from between the penalty arc and the center circle and knocked it in the upper right corner, securing a 3-0 lead for First Flight. Senior David Escobedo and Senior Justin Ortiz were notably tough on defense, but it wasn’t enough for First Flight’s connective passes and hustled up and down the field.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 3A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match were William (Burke) Powers from First Flight and Will Moore from Hickory.
The NCHSAA is proud to partner with Wells Fargo to present the Most Valued Player award in the 3A State Championship match to Colin Rhodes from First Flight.
“It’s about team unity, team effort, and teamwork,” said First Flight Head Coach Juan Ramirez. “We have the skills and the talent, but the one thing you cannot coach is team comradery, and that’s one of the things that we have.”
Hickory Head Coach Brian Jillings noted the success of his own team. “This is such a fantastic group. Not only athletes on the pitch but also off the field. They play for each other, they play hard, they are just the epitome of student-athlete and the kind of kids you want to work with.”
Hickory finished the season with a 23-3-2 record. This is Hickory’s 7th appearance in the state finals, winning the state championship title in 2001 and 2022 and being runner-up in 1997, 2001, 2010, 2012, and now 2023.
First Flight finished the season with a 21-0-1 record. This is First Flight’s 5th appearance in the state finals, winning the championship title in 2016 and now 2023 and being runner-up in 2013, 2014, and 2017. This was First Flight’s first appearance in the State Championship as a 3A school. Their previous appearances were as a 2A school.
— Allison Shuldt
South Mecklenburg Claims NCHSAA 4A Men’s Soccer Title
BROWNS SUMMIT – The South Mecklenburg Sabres needed every possible minute of action but ultimately earned the third North Carolina High School Athletic Association Men’s Soccer State Championship in program history with a win in penalty kicks over the Apex Friendship Patriots on Friday night.
The Patriots struck first as Patrick Dion scored in the sixth minute of the contest, but the Sabres tied things back up before the half as Patrick Duggan scored on an assist from Callen Ferguson. Ferguson sent in a low ball from the left side of the net, and Duggan buried it to level the score.
After the intermission, the Sabres came out on the offensive and racked up 13 of their 28 shots in the second half but could not convert one into the go-ahead goal.
“Once we got tight, our defense was better, and once we won the ball, we could keep it. We have to be able to keep the ball to be successful,” South Mecklenburg Head Coach Eric White said after the game. “I liked that we stayed on the front foot, but I don’t like that we didn’t finish. When we hit the post, we peppered it for sure. We hit every post, every crossbar they had, but you know we figured it out.”
After 30 minutes of overtime, the match moved to penalty kicks, where six Sabres found the net: Will Otten, Paul Northcutt, Patrik Burling, Mac Nalls, Alessio Scaldaferri, and Reece Woller.
Northcutt, who made seven saves in the game plus two in the penalty shootout, converted a crucial kick in the shootout to keep his team alive. Northcutt was named MVP for his efforts in the game.
“My mind is a clean slate in the sticks (in a shootout),” He said. “I know tendencies of some of the players, I know a couple of tricks, but at the end of the day, it just comes down to mindset.”
The Sabres ended the season 17-6-3, while the Patriots wrapped up 2023 20-5-2.
“The boys never quit … I didn’t use a lot of subs, so you’ve got guys who were playing for 110 minutes and then penalties after that, so that’s just a testament to their character and their will for tonight,” Apex Friendship Head Coach Matt Pugliano said after the match.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 4A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match were Scott Wildes from Apex Friendship and Mac Nalls from South Mecklenburg.
— Brandon Moree