Cardinal Gibbons is headed back to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A boys' soccer state final.
Ade Taiwo sandwiched two goals around a header by fellow sophomore Chase Rhode for the go-ahead score late in the first half Tuesday night as the Crusaders rallied to defeat Jacksonville 3-1 in the East Regional final for the second straight year.
Cardinal Gibbons (23-2-1), the defending state champions, played Charlotte Catholic on Saturday for the state title at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
Jacksonville finishes 22-4-1.
"The expectations of this team were very high," Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy said, adding that he joked with his players that anything less than a state title would "not be a good season when certainly we've had a good season. But when it comes down to the final eight, anyone can (win)."
The Cardinals grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by Herlinton Rugama with 19:46 left in the opening half, but the Crusaders tied it when Taiwo took advantage of a missed clear by the Cardinals and, just outside the 18-yard box, fired the ball inside the near post with 12:17 left past diving goalkeeper Holland Hammond.
It stayed that way until Rhode, who had come off the bench earlier, headed a free kick from Tyler Zimmerman into the net with 42.7 seconds left in the first half.
"I have been working hard in practice. I got my opportunity, made eye contact with Tyler, saw the ball come in and just did what I always do, head it in," Rhode said. "It was a blur.
"I remember hitting it and then just going crazy from there."
Taiwo scored his second goal on a penalty kick with 17:45 left in the match, which included seven yellow cards and one red card on Hammond after he and Zimmerman collided with 3:33 remaining.
Cardinal Gibbons rallied from a goal down twice last year to beat Jacksonville 3-2 in the regional final.
This was the Cardinals' seventh consecutive trip to the regional final.