CARY — The first time Green Hope’s boys soccer players learned they lost their head coach following a state championship was in 2011, when Andrew Chadwick stepped down.
Naturally, the returning players wondered what kind of coach the replacement, Richard Huxford, would be.
The transition ended with a second straight NCHSAA 4A state title.
Fast-forward to 2013, and once again Green Hope faced another coaching change when Huxford stepped down. The team was forced to break in another new head coach, Michael Hoy.
But for senior Sam Rauf, there were additional concerns – the new coach was his cousin.
Hoy, 25, and Rauf, 17, are first cousins; their mothers are sisters.
Hoy, who is from Maryland, had recently moved to the Triangle. He only saw his younger cousin over the years at large family gatherings that included as many as 20 cousins for holidays and summer beach trips to the Outer Banks.
“My first thought was it was awesome he was the new coach,” Rauf said. “But then reality set in. My teammates and I have played together for a long time. What’s it going to be like having my cousin changing things?”
There are still many games to be played before Green Hope can place itself in position to hoist a third straight state title, but the Falcons have again adapted and are on a roll with recent wins over Apex and Holly Springs.
Rauf, showing maturity belying his age, aided the transition when he suggested to Hoy that they have a team meeting. Rauf was the first to stand up and speak.
“When I spoke to the team, I told everyone he’s my cousin, but he’s the coach and there would be no favoritism,” Rauf said. “I wanted to get it out in the open. Mike set a good example the first couple of weeks. He yelled at me the same as the other players.”
Another factor that helped was Rauf, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound defender, was an established returning starter from the 2012 season.
“I had concerns, but Sam and his teammates are very mature,” Hoy said. “When Sam talked to them, I think there was a trust, and that they felt confident it wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve been impressed with the talent on the team and the willingness to improve. There was a growing process early in the season, but they have kept working in a positive way.”
Hoy entered the picture because he knew Huxford from the Capital Area Soccer League. Huxford considered bringing Hoy on as assistant coach before his new job prevented him from returning as Green Hope’s head coach. He recommended Hoy apply for the suddenly vacant job.
The Falcons have adapted with three distinctly different rosters over the years.
The 2011 squad was senior-dominated with few positions open to younger players. That kept the sophomores – who are now seniors – together on the 2011 junior varisty team as a group.
In 2012, the club was short on experience. The JV squad moved up for their junior year to fill open positions and blended with the seniors.
The 2013 seniors include goalie Sam Bissett, who has committed to Davidson. In addition to Rauf, other seniors leading the team and drawing recruiting attention are forward Zack Compton, defender Nathan Cook and midfielders Jonathan Giacona and Cole Dixon.
“We’ve known each other a long time and played on other soccer teams,” Rauf said. “But there is something special about playing for your high school team and having your friends come out and support you.”