CHAPEL HILL — Fuquay-Varina has shown it is not a one-trick pony in the N.C. High School Athletics Association soccer playoffs, head coach Todd Dowler said last week.
The 17th-seeded Bengals proved that point with a 3-1 win Wednesday night at No. 16 seeded East Chapel Hill.
East’s back line did a good job shutting out the Bengals’ top two scorers – Dean Rutherford and Jonathan Stehlik – but that left just enough room for Andrew Lawrence to slip through for two goals.
Rutherford had 22 goals and 11 assists heading into Saturday’s second-round rematch with defending state champion Green Hope, placing him 10th in the Triangle in scoring. Stehlik had 20 goals and seven assists, making him 14th in points.
“Those two are going to attract a lot of attention from defenders,” Dowler said, “But the truth is that you’re going to have to deal with several more attackers. We’re difficult to defend.”
Lawrence still has more assists (16) this year than goals (14), helping Fuquay-Varina (13-7-3) average 3.3 goals a game, but his play in the middle may be more important than his scoring.
“Their midfield did a really good job of winning the ball and maintaining possession,” East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins said. “It got to a point where we were getting tired of chasing them. Our defense played well, but you can stop only so many chances.”
East Chapel Hill (9-7-3) led early Wednesday on a goal by Zach Lee off an assist from Michael Balog. Lawrence made the score 1-1 with a free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 35th minute.
From then on, Fuquay-Varina began to dominate, with several chances and eight shots in the second half.
Lawrence scored what proved to be the game-winner in the 47th minute.
Holden Bryant started the play with one of several runs down the sideline along the Bengals’ bench; he beat his defender to the corner and centered the ball across the six-yard box to Lawrence, who one-touched it inside the near post.
“We’ve come from behind plenty of times this season,” Lawrence said.
Dominic Oliveres supplied an insurance goal with 24:28 to play, after taking a pass forward from Stehlik then side-stepping a defender just outside the penalty area before slamming the ball in from 16 yards out for a 3-1 lead.
“With players like Andrew Lawrence, Dominic Oliveres and Holden Bryant, we’re not a one-trick pony,” Dowler said. “We showed tonight the depth of this team and how well-rounded we’ve become.”
Fuquay-Varina also finished third in its conference in 2011, reaching the state quarterfinals before falling to league rival Green Hope.
“We had a very dynamic team two years ago, and we graduated 10 seniors from that team,” Dowler said.
“Last year, we started a lot of sophomores and juniors who were in their first year of varsity soccer. Now they’ve grown up a lot, and it’s showing.”
“I was a sophomore on that team,” Lawrence said. “It’s great to get back to the playoffs and get a win.”