For the first time in program history, Laney High School will send its boys soccer team to the state championship as the second Wilmington school ever to compete for a North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A Title.
Coming off a dramatic 1-0 overtime result against New Hanover to clinch the East Regional, the Bucs get the daunting task of facing unbeaten and nationally-ranked South Mecklenburg High School out of Charlotte.
South Meck defeated Providence High School on Tuesday to advance to the final game of the season, which will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21. The match will be the first of four championship contests at Dail Soccer Complex on the campus of N.C. State.
Laney is 20-3-3 overall, allowed just two goals through the playoffs and is riding a 10-game winning streak. The Bucs, an eighth-seed in the eastern bracket, finished second in the Mideastern Conference. They bring a ton of depth to the pitch, with senior forward Wesley Nelson leading the team in goals (22). His brother, Tristan Nelson, headed home the game-winner against the Wildcats in the 96th minute on Tuesday.
David Dailey, Robert Atkinson, Nathaniel Lorenz and Jackson Young provide a ton of experience across the midfield, while Logan Gray, Jack Brarens and Josh Sutton give the Bucs a well-rounded back line. Stephen Hagewood has also emerged as a game-changer in goal after taking over as keeper late in the season.
South Mecklenburg is in the NCHSAA finals for the first time since 1985 and the highest scoring 4A team in the state with 122 goals scored against just 12 allowed. Senior midfielder Marco Garcia leads the Sabres with 38 goals and 18 assists. Junior Fernando Garcia scored the game-winner in the second half against Providence. Garcia’s goal was assisted by Ethan DeSilva off a long throw in. Harish Amatya recorded seven saves in the shutout. It was the fourth shutout of the postseason for the Sabres.
Led by Head Coach Eric White, South Meck is 22-0-2 overall and finished 13-0-1 in the So. Meck 8, 4A Conference.
DeSilva and Reed Hunnicutt have 10 scores apiece and Hunnicutt also has a team-high 22 assists, while Amatya has 16 clean sheets this season.
Tickets to the 4A State Championship will be $8 at the gate.