Terry Sanford wins league crown
In a winner-take-all showdown of two defending conference champions, Terry Sanford celebrated its senior night for 16 senior Bulldogs with a 2-1 victory over visiting Southern Lee, winning the season's Cape Fear Valley Conference championship, Monday night.
Terry Sanford (17-1-1, 10-0-1), the defending champ of the 4A Mid-South, and the Cavaliers (15-1-2, 9-1-1), the CFVC's reigning champs, drew 2-2 at Cavalier Stadium in September.
The Cavaliers took the lead with Alex Palme's goal in the 19th minute. The Bulldogs tied the score in the 36th minute and took the lead in the 51st minute.
"It was the way a final should be," said Southern Lee head coach Chris Palme. "This was a great match. Give Terry Sanford credit, but we didn't back down."
"Our guys gave a valiant effort," he said, a few minutes after a quiet, emotional talk with his squad. The conference-rookie Bulldogs stopped a four-season run of Cavalier conference titles.
"We did everything right but put the ball in the net," Palme said.
"I think we did everything we needed to do," he said.
That included keeping possession and moving the ball quickly. The Cavs played well throughout, Palme said, but Terry Sanford took advantage of its chances in front of goal.
"Both teams played their hearts out," he said, "and that's the thing, when you're playing the best teams, they make you do things you normally don't do."
The Cavalier possession kept most of the early action in Terry Sanford's half. The Bulldogs had a couple dangerous sprints in on the Cavalier goal, but Southern Lee earned five corner kicks in the first 10 minutes. Forward Jair Cejudo fired a long shot across goal and banging off the right post in the 11th minute.
It wasn't the steady pressure on the Bulldog box which paid off, though, instead quick passing covering 60 yards in a blink put the Cavaliers in front.
In the 19th minute, right back Erick Penaloza tracked down a Bulldog clearance near the right sideline. Penaloza lofted a ball toward the top of the Terry Sanford box. Isaias Cruz chipped ahead into Alex Palme's path. Palme took one dribble then tucked a calm shot between the Bulldog keeper and the near, right post.
While the Cavs kept the ball well most of the match, and the pressure paid off for a 1-0 lead, the goal was one of only three shots on goal in the opening half and five for the match for Southern Lee. Terry Sanford wound up with a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal and overall shots were 15-15.
The Bulldogs leveled the match in the 36th minute. A Bulldog corner kick was met and buried by Andrew Hendrickson's leaping header near the back post.
Just past 10 minutes into the second half, Cavalier keeper Jeremy Hoover made a great, one-handed diving save on a shot by Hendrickson, only for Brett Burns to stick the rebound into the unguarded goal for the Bulldog lead.
Hoover momentarily saved the Cavaliers in the 72nd minute. Charles Jones earned, then took, a Bulldog penalty kick. Hoover dove full-length toward the right post to catch a low strike by Jones. Hoover finished with eight saves plus the penalty-kick save.
With the season title, Terry Sanford earns hosting rights for next week's CFVC Tournament, which is set for Monday-Wednesday.
Despite the tough loss, coach Palme believes his Cavaliers have proven, most importantly to themselves, they can match up versus anyone heading into the postseason.
"Absolutely, this was just one of those matches where we came out on the short end of the stick. I told our guys to stay confident with how we play, and these guys will. If we can stay with (Terry Sanford), we can stay with anyone in the state," he said.
The Cavaliers will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament and face last-place Douglas Byrd in one of Monday's three first-round matches at Terry Sanford.