Dramatic comeback sends Coastal Christian soccer to 2A NCISAA (video highlights/photos)

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WILMINGTON— If one word could describe the Coastal Christian soccer team this season resiliency would top the list. On Tuesday, the Centurions found themselves trailing by one late in the second half as the black and red needed every bit of energy from its entire lineup to pull off a dramatic 2-1 comeback overtime result against Carmel Christian in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) 2A semifinals.

With the victory, Coastal Christian advanced to the school’s first ever berth to a NCISAA Championship match in any sport. The Centurions are riding a 12-game winning streak at 21-2-1 overall.

After senior Tommy Murphy’s header in the 76th minute off a corner kick from classmate Matt Ward equalized the score one-all, all the momentum swung in favor of the Centurions.

The game-tying tally set the stage for a pair of 10-minute overtime periods. As freshman Tafari Croom surged forward on the left side, the rookie standout put a ball on the foot of Walker Henderson along the left edge of the penalty area and the sophomore buried a left-footed strike with two-minutes remaining in the matches second extra session for the game-winner.

Heading into the tilt, Coastal Christian thought it had a good game plan for a team they beat 3-2 earlier this season, but Carmel Christian was able to counter in a back-and-forth opening 40 minutes of action. The Cougars did a good job in keeping leading goal scorer Douglas McKinney at bay and limiting opportunities in the final third.

With frustration starting to set in for the Centurions, Carter Blackman put the Cougars in front 1-0 six minutes into the second period after Coastal Christian was unable to get a clearance on a bouncing ball in the penalty area.

As the clock on the Centurion’s season continued to wind down, a few adjustments over the next few minutes helped Coastal Christian on the attack, which handed a majority of possession back to the home side leading up to Murphy’s goal.

Murphy had a chance in the 62nd minute with a loose ball at his feet at the top of the box, but Carmel Christian keeper TJ Blong was in good position for the stop. Ward also hit a free kick just atop the penalty area wide right, while McKinney hit the side of frame on a corner kick from Ward in the 64th minute. The build up all led to Murphy’s finish on the Ward assist.

Hunter Mintz had just a few save opportunities in allowing  one goal at keeper for the Centurions thanks to strong play from the back line of Croom, Brian Cooke, Allen Amicy and Matt Davis. Gibbs Kramer also made an impact late in the match after he was expected to miss the contest due to injury. After sitting during the opening half, Kramer worked with training staff at the break and received clearance to get on the pitch for the crucial stages of the game.

Coastal Christian (21-2-1) received the top seed in the NCISAA 2A playoffs following an impressive 4-0 win against Fayetteville Academy on the final day of the regular season. The Centurions face the winner of Fayetteville Academy versus Asheville Christian Academy in the NCISAA Championship set for Saturday, Oct. 29 at Wesleyan Christian in High Point.