A night to remember

Absolute guts.

That’s what Terry Sanford’s soccer team had on display Saturday night. Yeah, they lost 4-3 in overtime to a very good Wilmington Ashley team. But to dominate the first half, not score, then watch three goals go by in the first 11 minutes of the second half – I thought for sure they’d quit.

Heck, I probably would have.

But instead, the Bulldogs pulled all three goals back. The last one, Kemji Nwuoso’s goal-of-the-year candidate in the 79th minute, was a brilliant bit of skill after a sweet cross from Rocket Court.

They deserved to win, and I’m sure they’ll be thinking of their missed opportunities until they start kicking the ball in anger next season.

Here’s my original story, which had to be shortened a bit for the print edition. It’s long, so click below to see it.

Navigating through the postseason is a lot like taking a car ride.

It’s not the crashes, but the sudden stops that hurt the most.

Terry Sanford’s journey came to a halt on their home pitch Saturday night, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to Wilmington Ashley in the second round of the State 4A soccer playoffs

The Bulldogs finish their season at 17-4-1 while the Screaming Eagles (15-4-3) will meet either Pinecrest or Pine Forest in round three.

Terry Sanford produced chance after chance in a scoreless first half before falling behind 3-0 in the first 11 minutes after intermission.

The Bulldogs pulled all three goals back, with Kemji Nwuoso getting his second on a well-struck volley in the 79th minute, only to watch the visitors advance with a goal in the second 10-minute overtime session.

“You can’t ask for anything better,” Terry Sanford coach Sean Brennan said. “What the kids did was phenomenal I’ve never seen a bunch of kids do that.

“They believed. That’s the only thing I’ve taught all season is believing and fighting, and they did it.”
Before the scrapping came 51 minutes of frustration for the Bulldogs.

After settling for a goal-less draw in the first half, Ashley got on the board in the 44th minute when Chris Snow was fouled in the box. Domencio Grillo stepped up and slammed home the penalty for the 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, the Eagles were celebrating again when Snow blistered a shot in from about 20 yards out on the right wing for a 2-0 edge.

Ashley kept the pressure on and found the net again in the 51st minute.

Eduardo Ochoa beat his marker on the left edge of the box, dribbled in and slotted a shot into the lower right corner to make the score 3-0.

Down by three, Brennan kept yelling on the sideline, “one goal at a time.”

The Bulldogs were listening.

Rocket Court broke loose on the right wing in the 55th minute, sending a cross into the box. Macon Bullard, with a defender draped on his back, steered the ball into the net to get the home side on the board.

Energized by the first tally, Terry Sanford hit for another in the 59th minute.

Rocket Court struck a free kick from about 30 yards away on the right side and the cross found the feet of Kemji Nwuoso near the penalty spot.

The sophomore midfielder re-directed the ball into the Eagle net to make it 3-2.

Ashley weathered that storm and spent the next few minutes trying to kill the match off.

Nwuoso was having none of that.

Rocket Court picked up his third assist of the night with a cross in the 79th minute.

It was an impressive pass, but it paled in comparison to the wicked volley struck by Nwuoso from the penalty spot that sent the match to extra time.

Terry Sanford had the chance to take the lead in the first 10-minute overtime session when Rocket Court was hauled down from behind in the box.

Tiger Court took the penalty kick and struck it firm, only to see it dodge the right post and skid out of play.

The Eagles made the hosts pay for that miss, getting the winning goal from Ochoa, who blasted home a shot from about eight yards out after a scramble near the top of the box in the first minute of the second overtime session.

“What we did tonight was a remarkable effort and it will never be forgotten,” Brennan said. “They didn’t write in the history book by moving on, but they showed everybody in the future what believing does. Mistakes aside, what happened tonight was a miracle.”


One Response to “A night to remember”

  1. scott custer Says:

    i am the stoper for the FTS mens varsity soccer team. This match was what high school soccer is about. with the coaching staff and fans that we have we will be back next year. at the end of last night everybody on our team knows that we were the better team. we missed some oppurtunities but our coaches and players made us believe we can always win. just next year there is going to be a different article in the paper. and its gonna be about how far we go in the playoffs because i guarantee we will go far

    – to a good season, scott c.

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