10/30/06 — Trinity denies WCDS' state-title bid

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Trinity denies WCDS' state-title bid

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 30, 2006 1:48 PM

WILSON -- "We're dodging bullets."

Wayne Country Day junior Jeff Franklin couldn't have been more truthful or prophetic when he made that comment to teammate George Mayo during second-half action Sunday afternoon. Franklin then stepped near the sideline and urged his team to control the ball, as well as increase its intensity level against Trinity Academy of Raleigh.

But the Chargers couldn't avoid one fateful bullet in the final five minutes of regulation. Trinity's Dylan Lucas pierced the heart of the WCDS defense with a game-winning goal just outside the penalty box.

The fourth-seeded Tigers held on defensively and prevailed 2-1 in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A men's soccer championship match. It was Trinity's first-ever trip to the finals and Wayne Country Day's second appearance since 2001.

"Sometimes you get some breaks and sometimes you don't. We didn't," said first-year WCDS coach Paul Estrada. "Balls just didn't fall where we wanted them. I have to hand it to them (Trinity), they played great; a good game.

"We were on our heels the whole game."

There was never a moment the second-seeded Chargers felt relaxed or thought they were in control. Trinity dominated the midfield and switched fields effectively in attempts to find open shots on goal.

The Tiger defense pinched the middle and denied striker Joseph Cha any direct looks at the goal. Cha, the team's third-leading scorer, had just three touches -- and no shots -- during the 80-minute affair.

"If Joseph doesn't touch the ball, we're hurting," said Estrada. "If he gets at least four or five shots in a game, we're great ... we're sailing. If he gets one or two goals, we're even better.

"When he's on, he's dangerous."

Cha's inability to score allowed the Trinity defense to clog up the penalty area and deny any direct attempts on goal. Wayne Country Day (14-5-1) fired nine shots, including two that nearly found their mark after Lucas put the Tigers ahead 2-1.

Keeper James Skinner stepped in front of two red-shirted Chargers and intercepted Franklin's throw-in near the WCDS bench. Senior Travis Davis had a shot bounce off the left post and drop into Skinner's waiting arms.

"The offense had a hard time dribbling through their defense and we really couldn't get a clean shot off the entire game," said Davis, one of three Chargers named to the all-state team.

Trinity, the Carolina Christian Conference champion, notched a goal in the game's opening minute. But the official near the WCDS bench signaled offsides and the teams played to a scoreless draw after 40 minutes.

WCDS senior Sam Steed, who earned a spot on the all-state squad, broke the 0-0 deadlock early in the second half. The Tigers committed a handball infraction in the box and Steed easily converted the penalty kick, tucking it into the lower right corner against Skinner.

Steed collected his 28th goal of the season and third PK in the playoffs.

"We played it tight the first half and in the second half, picked it up and got some momentum when Sam made the PK," said Davis. "And then they came right back."

The Tigers (19-3) notched the equalizer two minutes later on a controversial call by the midfield official. A WCDS defender and Trinity forward got their cleats tangled up and the official signaled "play on." A moment later, the official stopped play, reversed his decision and signaled foul on the Chargers. He awarded the Tigers a momentum-changing free kick.

Garrett Bostwick lofted a 20-yard shot into the box and Lucas headed it over Charger keeper Ryan Ford into the goal. Estrada said Ford, who also made the all-state team, probably didn't play as aggressive on the shot after drawing a yellow card in the first half in a similar situation.

"It shouldn't have been that difficult for us to recover," admitted Davis of the game-tying goal. "We usually fight right back and this time, we just couldn't get it through their defense."

Trinity continued its strong defensive play and its offense benefited from a costly mistake by the WCDS defense. Sophomore Garrison Beavers recovered a miscleared ball, stepped into the open space and blasted a cross from the left side toward a streaking Lucas. Ford, who covered the left post against Beavers, couldn't get to the back post in time to defend Lucas' game-winning header.

"We tried to fight back and put one in, but it was over," said Davis.

The Tigers became the first CCC program to claim a state championship. Former CCC member Village Christian, which moved to 2-A this season, faltered in the 2004 and 2005 finals.

Trinity denied Wayne Country Day's chance of becoming the third Coastal Plains Independent Conference program to win a state title since 2000. Greenfield won four straight from 2000 to 2003, and Faith Christian-Rocky Mount seized the 2004 title.

Five Chargers played their final game -- Davis, Steed, Mayo, Byron Bryan and Luxman Srikantha. Mayo departed the match and played sparingly due to a sprained left toe. Srikantha sustained a foot injury in the Cresset match and underwent an MRI on his knee last week. He did not play at full speed in place of Franklin, who played few minutes due to a high ankle sprain.

Notes: Trinity owned a 13-9 advantage in shots on goal. ... WCDS led 6-3 in corner kicks. ... Charger K Ryan Ford recorded nine saves. ... The Chargers' quintet of seniors played on three state-qualifying teams which averaged 12 wins a season and compiled a 2-3 playoff record.