Published: Aug 30, 2012 06:41 PM
Modified: Aug 30, 2012 06:43 PM
CARY - Green Hope senior Josh Kennedy never thought of this season in terms of having to replace last year’s state championship group. While outsiders wondered how the Falcons’ boys’ soccer team would respond with 11 new starters and a new coach, Kennedy and his teammates weren’t focused on answering those questions.
All this year’s team wanted to do was prove it is capable of carrying the torch of a proud program.
Three weeks into the season, it’s clear the Falcons are up to the task.
Green Hope, ranked No. 1 in the News & Observer rankings, roared back against No. 7 Athens Drive on Wednesday night to take a 4-2 Tri-9 Conference victory. It may be a new group, but the new players are going forward with plans to uphold their school’s winning tradition.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we have a completely different identity, but I’m not surprised at all that we’re still Green Hope and we still play together like we have in the past,” Kennedy said. “We’re Green Hope. We’re always up there and we always have to be a threat.”
The Jaguars (4-1-1) had the Falcons (4-0) on their heels early, however.
Athens Drive needed just a few shots on goal in a few minutes to take a 2-0 lead. The first came from Austin Brogan, who tapped in a pass in the box from teammate Jonathan Hunnicutt in the 8th minute. Two minutes later, Hunnicutt was back in the box and doubled the Jags’ score in the 10th minute by slotting one past Green Hope goalkeeper Sam Bissett.
“I think Green Hope settled down a little bit. Those two goals may have woke them up,” said Athens Drive coach Travis Seese.
The Falcons showed resolve in their own fast-and-furious scoring punch.
Green Hope scored in the the 23rd, 26th and 31st minutes to take a 3-2 lead into halftime. It was nearly more than that, but the Falcons hit the crossbar and left post in the 33rd.
“I think at 2-nil, the game was on a knife edge. (If) they get another one, and then you’re really chasing,” Green Hope coach Richard Huxford said. “The next goal was really key at 2-nil. When we got to 2-1 the crowd got behind them and then the momentum kicks in and all of a sudden (the players) don’t feel tired.”
Senior Tyler Hawley opened the Green Hope scoring account by flicking in a Kennedy free kick. Rishi Sharma scored the second goal, taking an extra touch after Kalvin Kromer pass. The third goal came off another set piece, as a free kick by MacLean Holbrook was headed down by Zach Doernberg in front of Kennedy, who tapped it in.
The only second half goal came from the Falcons’ Silfo Guzman, who scored off a second Holbrook assist.
“Last season we had very distributed teamwork and goal scoring and assists, and this year it’s the same thing,” said Kennedy.
It was the Tri-9 opener for Green Hope, while Athens Drive moved to 1-1 in the league.
Seese said that his young Jaguars team played well aside from the eight-minute stretch where the Falcons struck three times.
“The best thing about this group is that when they have a down moment, they’ll learn from it,” Seese said. “They’re a very coachable group and they learn from the mistakes they’ve made.”