Green Hope senior Drew Altman wanted nothing more than to play Friday at Cardinal Gibbons, but just before the game the Falcons' leading scorer wasn't certain he would play in the matchup between two of the top-50 high school boys' soccer teams.
He separated his shoulder while scoring a goal Monday against Panther Creek, but with almost 15 minutes to go Friday, Altman was back on the field and over the ball in a tie game, poised to play a role in the winning score of a 3-1 Green Hope victory.
In a slow-developing counter attack after a long clearing kick by a Falcons defender, Altman took the ball along the right side before playing it to junior Tommy Labriola, who then found senior Michael Montero, who slotted home the go-ahead goal with 14 minutes, 14 seconds left.
"Coming off the bench, I was just going to do my best with the time I have," Altman said. "We were patient, took our time and got it in."
Less than two minutes after the tie-breaking score, senior Tyler Carroll fired in a goal from 20 yards out to give the Falcons breathing room.
"I look in The News & Observer at the (area goal) leaders, and we don't have anybody near the leaders because we spread it among eight or nine guys," Green Hope coach Andrew Chadwick said. "I mean, who do you mark? There are a lot of guys who can do it. It's nice to have so many weapons."
Where the visiting Falcons (12-0-0) - ranked 12th in the country and No. 1 among North Carolina 4A schools - distinguished themselves from the host Crusaders (8-1-1), who are themselves ranked 45th in the nation and No. 1 among the state's 3A teams, was their finishing ability.
The Falcons scored the first goal with a defender capitalizing on a scrum following a corner. Cardinal Gibbons keeper Chris Shannon made the save, but it fell to the feet of senior Will Moore. Standing just feet from the goal line, Moore scored to put Green Hope ahead 1-0 in the 12th minute.
With about 19 minutes to go, Cardinal Gibbons senior Zach Milliken sent in a pass from 40 yards out and near the right sideline that fell right in front of streaking Crusaders teammate Tyler Zimmerman, who headed it in for the tying score.
"I was using this game as a complete playoff preparation game," Chadwick said. "In the second half, we calmed down and we just played better."