Head Coach Terry Hughes knows all about winning championships. In the spring, his girls soccer team at Asheville Christian Academy came home with the state crown. And on Saturday, Hughes and the Lions’ boys soccer followed suit in miraculous fashion.
The Lions squared off in the title game against the undefeated Fayetteville Academy Eagles, who in some national polls were ranked as high as number 14 in the country. The Eagles got off to a blistering start, scoring three goals in the opening minutes of the first half. But the Lions maintained their composure, and the momentum slowly started to shift.
The Lions got on the scoreboard three minutes before the half when senior Samuel Duarte connected on a penalty kick.
In the final ticks before the half ACA, sophomore Max Hill escaped on a breakaway and buried the ball into the back of the net pulling the Lions within one goal at 3-2.
Two minutes into the second half, the Lions tied the score when a free kick from 40 yards out found the head of Alex Fraga, who slipped the ball past the keeper to tie the score. At the end of regulation the score was knotted at 3-3.
The Eagles struck first in overtime and took a 4-3 lead into the final seconds. As the clock ticked down, the title appeared to be slipping through the Lions grip. But in the closing moments, the Lions sent a long desperation ball in front of the goal. The ball bounced around and found the foot of senior Barrett Compton, who scored with just five seconds left to send the game into sudden death overtime.
After neither team scored in sudden death, the game to decide the state title moved to penalty kicks. The Eagles took the first shot, but it cleared the crossbar, giving the Lions the early advantage. Coleman Compton took the first shot for the Lions and scored, followed by successful attempts by Duarte, Corban Crosley and then Barrett Compton. The Eagles made their next few kicks, but ACA goalkeeper Logan Collie needed just one save on the Eagle’s fifth and final kick to give the Lions the title. The shot went to Collie’s left; he dove, blocking the ball away from the goal and securing the improbable championship for ACA.
The Lions swarmed their keeper, bringing home the boys program’s first-ever state crown.
“You see some of those individual things happen throughout the season,” said Hughes. “But for them all to happen in the same game is just crazy … and when it was 3-0, I started to think in the back of my mind that this could get bad. We told the boys to just get one (goal) and we’ll deal with it from there.”
“For me, I feel like the luckiest coach in the world. It’s amazing.”
The Lions finished the year with a 16-3-2 overall record. Corbin Crosley and Coleman Compton collected All-State honors.
In other fall sports news, the ACA girls cross country team finished third in the state meet, just missing out on another state title. The boys team finished its year with an impressive sixth-place finish.