Playoff soccer can be wonderful, and it can be cruel. Hobbton and Triton, the last two remaining Record teams, found that out on Saturday as they fell in the second round of the NCHSAA state playoffs.
Hobbton, the No. 6 seed in the 1A bracket, fell 2-0 at home to No. 11 Camden. Triton, the No. 16 seed in the 3A bracket, fell 4-0 on the road at No. 1 Jacksonville.
The Wildcats, playing in front of home fans at Al Britt Field, dominated the entire match but struggled to finish in the final third. Conversely, the Bruins took just three shots the entire game, all three coming on free kicks, and scored twice.
Camden hadn’t had the ball in the attacking third the entire second half, but a counter attack led to a Hobbton handball in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick. Suddenly, the Bruins held a 1-0 lead with 16:49 in the game.
A few minutes later, Camden scored on its third shot of the game, a perfect curled free kick from roughly 20 yards out into the top-left corner. Within the blink of an eye, Hobbton was down two goals with just 10:46 left to play.
“I didn’t really get to see [what happened] on the PK,” Hobbton coach Jonathon Jacobs said. “He’s closer than I was, so if he said it’s a PK then you have to go with what he says. The second shot goes top-left. They had three shots all game, scored two. We had too many chances and didn’t do enough with it. That’s what happens in soccer: you have chances and you don’t do it, you go home.”
It’s a tough way for the Wildcats (19-3-1), who were coming off a fourth-straight Carolina Conference championship and looked poised to make a deep run in the postseason.
“We were just unlucky,” Jacobs said. “I’m proud of everything to this point, and I’m proud of how we got here, because we did all the little things to get here. We just didn’t have the end product.”
The program has made huge strides in the last several seasons under Jacobs, and he hopes that this loss can motivate his team to take that next step.
“Our goal is to get to a state championship,” Jacobs said. “We just need this summer to take a look at ourselves and see what we did wrong this year — myself included, not just the players — and we need to learn from that and try to figure it out. Because we’re going to start in June and take it day by day.”
While Hobbton was a team coming in with high expectations, Triton was a team that was happy to be there.
The Hawks (13-9-2) were coming off their first playoff win in nine years after Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Terry Sanford in the first round. Going on the road to face top-seeded Jacksonville, Triton had nothing to lose.
“We didn’t shock the world,” said Triton coach Brian Foster. “But they sure played their butts off. Awesome season.”