Hunt's Cooper Dean marks a South Carolina player in possession of the soccer ball in Saturday's Clash of the Carolinas match at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Dean, the North Carolina team captain, guided the Tar Heels to a 2-2 draw. Jimmy Lewis | Times
North Johnston graduate Ian Walston, right, jostles for possession with a South Carolina defender during Saturday's Clash of the Carolinas match at WakeMed Soccer Park. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. In the background is Hunt graduate and North Carolina captain Cooper Dean. Jimmy Lewis | Times
Hunt High graduate Juan Anguiano possesses the soccer ball in front of a South Carolina defender during Saturday's Clash of the Carolinas match at WakeMed Soccer Park. Anguiano was active, hitting the crossbar in the 21st minute off the bench as the Tar Heels and Sandlappers finished with a 2-2 draw. Jimmy Lewis | Times
By Jimmy Lewis
CARY — Regardless of the stakes, there isn’t a whole lot of finality in a draw.
Such was the sentiment espoused by a trio of players from The Wilson Times readership area that participated in the 11th annual Clash of the Carolinas all-star boys soccer game Saturday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“I would have taken the win,” Hunt graduate and North Carolina forward Jose Anguiano said after the 2-2 tie with South Carolina. “But I guess a tie would be OK.”
Anguiano and Cooper Dean were the first male players in Hunt history to be selected for Clash duty. They were joined by North Johnston’s Ian Walston. Instead of the traditional 40-minute halves in high school, the Clash featured a 45-minute running clock in each half.
In a North Carolina-South Carolina grudge match that has been dominated by the Tar Heels throughout the event’s history, North Carolina was in position to tack on another win with a 2-1 lead in the second half.
But an untimely handball in the box called against Cary Green Hope’s Griffin Brookshire in the 88th minute allowed the Sandlappers to take a penalty kick, which was converted by South Carolina’s Quinn McNeill to leave the match level at 2-2 when the full-time whistle blew.
North Carolina now leads the series 6-1, with four ties. The Tar Heels had won five in a row in the series before Saturday’s draw, but remain in possession of the Clash trophy.
Although he didn’t start, Anguiano, on his way to Appalachian State, wasted little time inserting himself into the proceedings. He was an instant spark up top, harassing the final third of the Sandlappers. Anguiano came close to putting his name on the score sheet, rifling a shot from approximately 20 yards away off the crossbar.
Not bad for a late addition to the match after Evan Ashbrook of Cornelius Hough had to withdraw due to another commitment. Ashbrook, bound for N.C. State, was selected as the 2016 Player of the Year by North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association and garnered All-America acclaim from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
“I had a couple of chances which didn’t go in,” Anguiano said. “But, it happens.”
Dean, who was voted North Carolina’s team captain after Chapel Hill’s Brendan Holly fell ill, helped anchor the Tar Heels from the back. Bound for Barton College in the fall, a Warrior-to-Warrior connection threatened in the 27th minute. Dean sent one of his trademark long balls in the direction of Anguiano in the box, but Anguiano could not get a quality touch to finish.
“It’s something we’ve been doing for a while now,” Dean said of booting the ball down the field. “I can look up the field and make eye contact with him, and he knows where to run.”
The running clock foiled North Carolina and Anguiano late in the first half. As the Tar Heels threatened on the wing with Anguiano in possession, Anguiano threaded the ball in the middle to North Carolina’s Most Outstanding Player in Aidan O’Brien. However, before O’Brien could get a touch, the referee’s whistle blew to end the half with the Sandlappers leading 1-0.
Dean helped preserve the tie in the 88th minute as South Carolina attacked in the box. The Sandlappers’ Mitchell Myers appeared as if he would have a one-on-one chance against Raleigh Charter keeper Colin Bronack, but Dean slid in with a form tackle and threaded the ball out of danger. South Carolina did not seriously threaten again.
“It was incredible,” Dean said. “That was probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played in my life. It was great competition. But when you’ve got 10 other guys and a few more on the bench that work their tail off for you, you’ve got to make plays like that.”
Walston, North Johnston’s prolific goal scorer, patrolled the North Carolina midfield and was a consistent funnel forward on the attack and dropping back to defend. Along with Dean and Anguiano, Walston will have another chance to collect an all-star win when the trio suits up for the East in the North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game on July 18 at Macpherson Stadium in Bryan Park just outside of Greensboro.
“They weren’t what we were expecting, honestly,” Walston said of the Sandlappers. “From what we had heard, we weren’t expecting them to be this good. Or, we just played bad — or both. But I think we ended up all right in the end. It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we played our hearts out and that’s all we can ask for.”
After falling down 1-0 at halftime, North Carolina quickly got the better of the play in the second half as the Sandlappers started to wear down in the formidable heat and humidity. In the 51st minute, Wallace-Rose Hill’s Maynor Espinoza, the national record holder for most goals in a career, brought the Tar Heels level. That scoreline stood until the 65th minute, where North Carolina quickly jumped on the counterattack and scored via the long ball. Chapel Hill’s Sam Linker booted the ball down the field to South Mecklenburg’s Reed Hunnicutt, who got one-on-one with the Sandlappers keeper and put it away.
The girls’ match was dominated by North Carolina in a convincing 4-0 win for the Tar Heels. North Carolina leads the all-time girls series in the Clash by an 8-2 margin, with a single tie in 2008. The Clash is home to the only interstate all-star high school matches in the country.