RALEIGH — No. 7 seed Sanderson used a second-half man-up advantage to down No. 26 seed Holly Springs 6-2 Wednesday night in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys’ soccer playoffs.
Leading 3-2, Sanderson benefited from an early red card issued to Holly Springs 78 seconds into the second half. Sanderson scored two goals in the next 10 minutes to help put the match out of reach.
“The ejection was unfortunate because I knew Holly Springs was a really good ball squad. So I knew the second half was going to be tight. Unfortunately the ejection allowed us to explode a little bit,” head coach Todd Worley said. “So we pressed. We press as hard as we can.”
“When we went down a man, we tried to switch things up and tried to hold our own, but a good team like Sanderson is tough enough to play even. You can’t be down a man,” Holly Springs head coach Brian Miller said. “I thought we were in the game. I thought we were playing better for a while, but it’s not the way we wanted to go out.”
Sanderson (19-6-1) scored first to start the game. Ryan Turner’s header on a throw-in from Dylan Haynes put the Spartans up 1-0, 12 minutes into the game.
Sanderson looked to be in control at the onset, but two costly mistakes late in the first half led to two quick Holly Springs goals.
Aaron Latigue’s line drive blast off a direct kick just outside the penalty area scorched into the back of the net to tie things up at 1 in the 28th minute.
Three minutes later, Sanderson, unable to clear from its zone, forced a throw-in. Holly Springs (11-8-3) got the ball low and Sanderson struggled to clear again. A Spartan defender’s clearing kick from the goal line was intercepted by Holly Springs’ Keenan McDiarmid, who settled the ball, then spun and fired on net for the score and a 2-1 lead.
“(Holly Springs) scored two good soccer goals,” Worley said. “I thought our guys got a little out of sorts, but then they got it back in the last 10 minutes and played really well.”
Sanderson did get it back in the closing minutes of the first half.
Turner drove a line-drive shot from about 25 yards out. The ball looked like it may have been sailing wide of the goal but instead clanged off the far goal post and in past the goalkeeper to tie it 2-2.
Then with time winding down, Michael Clemmons received a headed pass from Turner off a throw-in. Clemmons directed the pass into the net with seven seconds left in the half for a 3-2 lead.
Sanderson carried the momentum into the second half, further aided by the early red card.
A Holly Springs player looked to have taken exception to a hard tackle by Sanderson and the referee sent the Golden Hawks player off, leaving Sanderson with better opportunities.
Clemmons quickly added his second goal of the night at the 47th minute on a nice feed from Michael Barrell, and three minutes later Juan Cortes scored from in front of the net on a nice spin-and-kick move. Miguel Mora-Ramirez’s goal at the 66th minute capped the scoring at 6-2.
“What I liked about our goals tonight was that a lot of people were involved,” Worley said.
Sanderson advances to the second round to host No. 23 seed Hoggard, who upset No. 10 seed Apex 2-1.