The only boys soccer team in the state that remains undefeated is situated on the Outer Banks.
On Saturday, First Flight won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A boys soccer championship by defeating Hickory 3-0.
The Nighthawks achieved a 22-0-1 overall record and became the only undefeated soccer team in the state this season, after defeating the previous state champions at MacPherson Stadium in Browns Summit.
Juan Ramirez, coach of First Flight, stated that their focus is not on setting records but rather on putting in hard work and being able to control the midfield. They operate as a close-knit family, working together as a unified team to overcome challenges. They emphasize the importance of togetherness and supporting one another, taking responsibility for both successes and failures. Ramirez emphasizes that it is not just one individual who contributes to their success, but the entire team. Similarly, when they experience losses, it is a team effort rather than the fault of one person.
The opening goal was scored by First Flight when a cross from Nathan Tsonev was redirected into the net by Cam Summerton in the 17th minute.
Before the first half ended, the Nighthawks increased their lead when Curren Breiholz scored in the 39th minute. Seth Albright sent a cross that was slightly touched by Summerton before reaching an unguarded Breiholz in the box.
After leading 2-0 at halftime, First Flight quickly increased their lead.
In the 42nd minute, Marvin Hernandez scored a goal from 35 yards away, bringing the score to 3-0. This remained the final score.
The game was a face-off between the first place teams from the Eastern and Western divisions.
Prior to Saturday, Hickory (23-3-2) had a total score of 23-1 in the playoffs, while First Flight (22-0-1) had a combined score of 23-2 (now 26-2) in their playoff games.
First Flight finished the year with a record of only six goals conceded, just one short of tying the state’s record. Colin Rhodes, the team’s goalkeeper, was named the Most Valuable Player.
“I believe that today, our main focus was maintaining a strong presence in the middle of the field and ensuring that our center backs worked together effectively,” stated central midfielder Kai Reece. “We successfully prevented them from advancing through the middle.”
The Red Tornadoes had a winning streak of 19 games leading up to the final, while First Flight had won 10 consecutive games.
Hickory reached its seventh state championship game, making it their third consecutive appearance. They were victorious in 2001 and 2022, winning two previous titles.
Coach Brian Jillings of Hickory described the team as “fantastic.” He praised their teamwork and dedication, stating that they are the embodiment of student-athletes.
In 2016, First Flight won its fifth championship as a 2A school. However, in the previous year, the Nighthawks were defeated in the East final.
Rhodes stated that the previous round’s loss, when you realize you could have won, serves as motivation to push even harder towards the final.
Prior to the competition, NCHSAA sportsmanship awards were given to one player from each team. Will Moore received the award for Hickory, while Burke Powers received it for First Flight.