RALEIGH, N.C. — The Reagan boys soccer team has come a long way in four years — and the Raiders’ climb reached the summit Saturday night, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Reagan defeated Raleigh Broughton 1-0 at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field to win the NCHSAA Class 4-A title.
Noah Wells found his big brother Ethan on a perfect cross from the right wing, and the senior standout calmly converted the opportunity in the 59th minute in an evenly-matched game that didn’t allow for many such scoring chances.
Four years ago, the Raiders managed to win just four games, barely made the playoffs the following year and were ousted in the second round a season ago.
For Coach Paul Hicks of the Raiders, the journey has been worth it.
“To come this far, I’m so proud of them,” Hicks said. “This is a very tight-knit group of boys. They just laid their hearts on the line and they really have been a family this year.”
Broughton pressed in the game’s final minutes searching for the equalizer. It appeared to have found it with seven minutes remaining when the Capitals’ leading scorer, Matt Brickhouse, got behind the defense and fired a shot to the near post. The ball ricocheted off the post, however, and the strong Reagan defense held on from there.
“This is fantastic for our program and for the school, to be able to bring home our school’s first state championship,” Hicks said.
Raiders goalkeeper Quinn Kuhn was called upon to make a handful of saves in the first half but none from inside the penalty box. The back four of Reagan combined with Quinn to post the team’s 12th shutout of the season.
Peter Leary, Pete Polonsky, Christopher Tomlinson and Noah Watkins held the dangerous Capitals (20-2-2) at bay the entire game, successfully clearing long throw-ins and free kicks with relative ease.
Noah Wells provided the Raiders (25-3) with their best scoring chance in the opening half as well as the freshman fired a low shot in the 14th minute that seemed poised to find the back of the net.
However, Broughton junior Bryant O’Neal cleared the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless.
On the winning goal, Ethan Wells won possession of the ball in midfield before slotting a pass out wide to his brother. Noah Wells beat his man down the line and then lofted a perfectly-placed cross to the far post where his older brother, who had been yelling for the ball, was waiting.
“Yeah, he’s heard me yelling a lot,” Ethan Wells joked. “I yell at him at home and I yell at him for the ball and he just put it right where it needed to be … it’s a special moment.”
Ethan Wells, who was named the game’s MVP, spent the past two seasons with the U.S. Soccer Development Program but wanted a chance to return to play high-school ball with his younger brother.
When asked after the game of Wells’ decision to do just that, Hicks said, with a sly grin, “I’m glad that he did.”