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GRAHAM — Staggered by a Gospel Light Christian goal in the seventh minute, the Wilson Christian boys soccer team did not recover and will have to wait at least another year for another shot at its first North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A championship.
Appearing in the title game for the first time since 2013, the Chargers, seeded No. 1 from the East Region, were again denied a state championship, bowing 2-0 to Gospel Light of Walkertown on a warm, breezy Saturday afternoon on the cozy but chewed Alamance Christian pitch that was encircled by a turnout of some 500.
On the 25th anniversary of their last undefeated season, the Lions, No. 1 from the West, capped a perfect (19-0) campaign with their first state title since 2014.
Both teams were ousted in the state semifinals in 2018.
“I expected to win a championship,” declared distraught Chargers goalkeeper Harrison Parker, who was joined by Gabe Barnes, Thomas Evans and Robert Murray as seniors ending their splendid Wilson Christian careers. “We knew we could accomplish it, but it didn’t work out in our favor.”
WCA head coach Don Samson emphasized the state championship has been the Chargers’ goal since the first practice.
“They worked hard and they fought,” Samson added. “But sadly in sports, you can show up and get beat. That happened today.”
Gospel Light senior Jackson Bowman, whose defensive play was equally as pivotal as the two goals that junior Angel Acosta drilled, expected a Lions’ state championship. But head coach Brian Dunbar did not foresee a march to perfection at the season’s outset.
“The adjective I’ll use is that it’s just a blessing from the Lord,” Dunbar, drenched by the icy contents of a cooler responded. “This is a team of unusual chemistry. These boys helped me a lot more than I helped them.”
Exclaimed Bowman: “It feels great, indescribable. The midfield played great; we were solid in back and kept our composure on offense.”
Acosta laced his 46th goal in the seventh minute and then deflated the Chargers with goal No. 47 with less than 27 minutes remaining. The Lions wound up with a 15-8 margin in shots.
Other Gospel Light threats were senior Rhony Vargas, sophomore Jeron Walker and senior Ruben Montor.
Parker made 10 saves and was supported amply by sophomore Alex Torres, junior Spencer Parker, junior Jack Ortiz, sophomore Nathan Murray and Robert Murray. However, Parker had little chance of stopping the two blistered, well-placed shots off the foot of Acosta.
Barnes, although frustrated by Bowman, emerged Wilson Christian’s top first-half threat. Sophomore Will Hoskins cranked most of the Chargers’ second-half attempts and most dangerous was junior Ethan Mitchell’s blast off the right upright early in the second half.
Wilson Christian, down 2-0, continued to scramble but could not effectively pressure in the final 20 minutes and settled for an 18-5-3 record and a runner-up state finish.
Parker credited the Lions, especially Bowman, and Hoskins added: “(Gospel Light is) a very good team. They deserved to win. They came out ready to play.”