There was one thought on the mind of Chauncey Brummell with 27:36 remaining in regulation against Western Alamance.
Cedar Ridge had just been whistled for a foul inside the box when Lucas Dumayne was pushed down trying to get into position for a throw-in by Camden Oliveira. Warriors junior striker Konnor Johnson, who had a hat trick last week against Orange, would take the penalty kick.
Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Erik Galunas didn’t shy away from the challenge while he awaited Johnson’s attempt. As Johnson fired a rocket at the net, Galunas guessed correctly that he would aim at the upper right corner.
But the attempt zoomed over the crossbar. Cedar Ridge had new life in a battle for first place in the Central Carolina Conference at Red Wolves Stadium.
Ironically, the captain of Cedar Ridge’s defensive back line, who proved to have many successful clearances in a game where possession was split evenly, would come up with the only offense of the night.
The scoring sequence was set up by Cedar Ridge co-Captain Dominic McNerney, who had a 40-yard run and fired a shot off Western Alamance goalkeeper Eamon Hipps off a tough angle over the end line for a corner. Cedar Ridge midfielder Illah Babchenko’s first corner attempt was quickly turned away by Western Alamance midfielder Luis Guerrero over the end line. Babchenko’s second attempt was sent out of the box by Oliveria, but Babchenko won the ball back. His third cross hovered over the six yard box, where junior Salomon Hernandez gained position on Dumayne. Without going over Dumayne’s back, Hernandez stood outside the center of the six-yard box and made enough contact with the ball to nudge it into the lower left corner of the net past Hipps with 4:17 remaining in regulation.
A wild celebration ensued as the Red Wolves chased Hernandez onto the track. After a few successful clearances by Giovani Yanez and Abazar Babiker in the waning minutes, the time ran out and Cedar Ridge had its biggest soccer win in recent memory.
The Red Wolves (8-1-2, 4-0-1 in the CCC) defeated Western Alamance 1-0. It was the Red Wolves first win since the Warriors joined the CCC in 2021. The Red Wolves are now undefeated in the CCC after a stunning upset of a Warriors team that won the 2021 3A State Championship.
“Solomon made some really big defensive stops,” Brummell said. “You have to give credit to Western Alamance. They are a great team. There’s a lot of tradition behind that program. This was a big step for our program tonight.”
After Cedar Ridge largely controlled possession in the first half, Western Alamance (6-5, 3-1) opened the second half with a furious rally where Guerrero found Johnson on the doorstep of the net, but Yanez shielded him from an open net. The best Johnson could do was loft a shot over the next.
Minutes later, Western Alamance’s Blake Bacchus took a free kick and unleashed a rocket that banged against the right post. The rebound careened right to Guerrero, who fired wide right of the net.
Up until Hernandez’s game-winner, Cedar Ridge’s best chance came with 20:42 remaining when McNerney had a long throw-in 25 yards from the net. McNerney sent a pinpoint pass to sophomore Edbar Lopez, whose diving header went just wide of the net.
After a joyous team meeting, the Cedar Ridge players gathered for a team picture in front of the scoreboard. Their goal at the beginning of the season was to make the state playoffs. Now, they’re aiming for something higher with a trip to powerful Walter Williams set for Monday night.
“I feel my entire defensive outside line stepped up,” Brummell said. “From the defense to the midfield, I think these boys showed tonight that they want to play soccer. To knock off a state championship team like Western Alamance, that’s not easy to do. Credit Solomon for the header and the game-winner. He saved us.”