Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
While Wilson Preparatory Academy sophomore goalkeeper Cameron Bryant probably deserved a better fate that what awaited him in Saturday’s second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A boys soccer playoffs, the Tigers at large couldn’t be lumped in that same category following a 2-0 loss to North Moore.
Bryant kept Wilson Prep, playing in its first NCHSAA playoff match following a first-round bye, in the match despite little in the way of sustained offensive pressure. A Mustangs goal was waved off within the first 12 minutes, and Bryant collected eight saves in the first half as North Moore, which made a two-hour trip for a noon start, kept the pressure on despite a scoreless first half.
But in the second half, North Moore broke through with a penalty kick conversion off a handball, and an insurance tally in the 63rd minute from co-captain Edgar Cruz was enough to end WPA’s first season in the NCHSAA ranks.
North Moore, which tied for second in the Yadkin Valley Conference, improved to 13-5-1 as the No. 10 seed in the 24-team bracket. Wilson Prep, the No. 7 seed and champions of a truncated Tar Roanoke Conference, concluded at 5-4-2.
North Moore will get a home game in the third round, taking on No. 18 Woods Charter of Chapel Hill after the latter dispensed with
No. 2 Granville Central 3-1.
“Personally, I think this is one of my top five best games of the season,” Bryant said. “I put my all out to this team, and I love everyone on this team. We had a great season this year.”
But Bryant’s heroics weren’t enough to overcome a North Moore offense that suffocated possession and limited Wilson Prep to just a handful of runs into its offensive third.
“Obviously the handball did help a little,” North Moore head coach Luis Peralta said. “Their keeper is amazing. He’s pretty good, and one of the best keepers that I’ve seen throughout this soccer season.”
The Mustangs drew 11 corner kicks and had an early opportunity with co-captain Cristopher Sanchez Vargas in the ninth minute, but was turned away by Bryant at close range off the restart. However, Vargas suffered a knee injury later in the half and didn’t return.
In the 44th minute, North Moore kept the pressure on and drew a Wilson Prep handball in the box. That allowed Marshall Ocampo to step to the spot and settle it past Bryant outside of the run of play.
Facing a PK early in the second half drew mixed emotions from the WPA keeper.
“It was, but then it wasn’t,” Bryant said. “It’s just all part of the game — there’s not much I can do about it.”
Bryant was essentially screened off from Wilson Prep’s second goal, with Cruz dribbling into the box and putting in a second-chance opportunity in the 63rd.
The Tigers generated sporadic threats from junior Alberto Herrera and junior Devyn Bullock, but generated just one shot. Herrera became the dominant voice in the halftime conversation for the Tigers of head coach Mahlon Mills.
“I don’t regret anything that happened this season,” Bryant said. “I love all of the memories. We did a lot this year with this team, and everyone did their part.”