11/01/09 — Overachieving Chargers fall to nemesis Faith Christian-RM

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Overachieving Chargers fall to nemesis Faith Christian-RM

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 1, 2009 1:51 AM

WILSON -- Overachievers.

Coming off a six-win campaign in 2008 and inundated with in-house troubles, the Wayne Country Day men's soccer team exceeded its expectations one year later.

And nearly returned to the state finals.

Seth Miller supplied the game-winning, unassisted goal in the 70th minute and Faith Christian-Rocky Mount ended the Chargers' tremendous turnaround season, 3-2, on Friday afternoon in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A semifinals.

Hands in pockets and misty-eyed, WCDS coach Michael Taylor didn't know what to tell his team after the disheartening finish. Nine seniors helped the program collect 14 wins this season and march into the final four for the second time since 2006, and just the third time overall since 2001.

"Nobody ever thought we were going to be in this spot where we're at right now," said Taylor. "We've come a long ways since July 27. These guys played hard, battled to the very end tonight. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm proud of each and every one of these guys.

"Our goal was to get into the playoffs and we got here."

The seventh-seeded Chargers (14-7-1 overall) seized a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the match. Senior co-captain Cameron Ford distributed a ball from the midfield to sophomore Hil Tanner, who beat his lone defender down the right sideline and crossed the ball into the box to Tyson Pearson.

Camped out at the back post, Pearson headed the ball into the net past Patriots keeper Ben Barnes.

"That's something we've been working on ... crosses and inside (the 18) game," said Taylor. "He was right there at the right time. Ty has a head and nose for the ball."

Barnes (11 saves) and Chargers keeper Cody Neal (three saves) kept the goal covered well the remainder of the opening half. The teams played even on possession with WCDS holding a 9-3 edge in shots.

Miller took charge in the second half.

Faith Christian coach Harold Rackley switched his lineup and moved the lanky forward onto the front line. Miller responded with the game-tying goal in the 42nd minute.

"We went to a more offensive lineup and that opened things up a little bit, and our defense played a little better, too," said Rackley. "We didn't rebound (from that first goal) until halftime. We were down and tried to stay positive because we've been here before."

The third-seeded Patriots (16-4-1) moved in front 2-1 six minutes later when senior Keegan Gemmell headed the ball into goal off a corner kick. Pearson answered in the 54th minute off Ford's assist, and the teams buckled down for their fantastic finish.

The Chargers took a hit defensively when senior co-captain Tucker Pearson sustained a season-ending, right-ankle injury. Pearson watched the final 20-plus minutes from the sidelines as his teammates kept the Patriots at bay until Miller's game-winning shot at the 69:01 mark.

"(Miller) took over the game at the beginning of the half and caught us on our heels," said Taylor. "That dictated the second half and the last 20 minutes, I thought we controlled the game and were going to get one in. When Tucker went out, we still played well and that hurt a lot.

"(Our guys) probably don't understand how far we've come this year. Once they got here, they felt 'we can do this'."