RALEIGH Sanderson allowed an average of just 0.7 goals last season, outscoring opponents by more than two goals per game en route to a third-round finish in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A tournament.
This year, the 2012 Cap Eight champion has seen itself in need of late-game heroics early in the season.
The Spartans started conference play Tuesday with a 2-1 win at Wakefield. Sanderson senior Dylan Haynes headed the winning goal with 29.4 seconds remaining in the match.
Wakefield goalkeeper sophomore Taha Mirmozaffari (12 saves) had stopped several Sanderson attempts after the Wolverines tied the score in the 55th minute.
Sanderson junior Miguel Mora Ramirez’s shot drew Mirmozaffari but hit the crossbar. Haynes was there to knock it in.
“Their goalkeeper played a really great game, and for us to get behind him was really good,” said Sanderson coach Todd Worley. “We had a lot of opportunities in that second half, so we felt very lucky to get that one. ... We have to play better than we did tonight, as far as we just had too many turnovers tonight. We just have to play better and figure out a way to win a litte easier. We’ve been hitting the last 10 minutes or overtime in almost every game so far.”
Sanderson took an early lead with an Alex Struble goal in the 14th minute. Wakefield had chances in the first half but wasn’t able to equalize until Ryan Thompson’s goal in the 55th.
Both teams had close calls after that point, each hitting the crossbar at least once.
First-year Wakefield coach C.J. Komons said the loss was a tough one for a Wolverines team that has a good group of players who want to get better.
“I told them to remember this feeling and stop letting this happen to yourselves,” Komons said. “We just have to put the pieces together so we can finish the puzzle.”
The teams met last year in the Cap Eight conference tournament final, with Sanderson winning 4-1.
“We knew coming in that Wakefield was one of the favorites,” Worley said. “They were good last year, and they were young, so we knew they’d be better. ... C.J. is a really good coach, and I think he’s doing a really good job with them, so we kind of expected it. We struggled with our legs a little bit, and I can’t tell you why. ... But we worked hard, and we figured out a way to win.”
Sanderson has lost two games this year, falling 3-2 to defending NCHSAA 4A champion Green Hope two weeks ago and 3-0 to Jacksonville at the Battle of the Beach tournament, but got a big win Thursday in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory against Cap Eight rival Heritage.
The win gave the Spartans early control of first place in the conference.