Cedar Ridge Men’s Soccer

Cedar Ridge Male Athlete of the Fall Sports Season: Iliah Babchenko

From the outside, there wasn’t any reason to think this season would be all that special for Cedar Ridge men’s soccer.

They finished 5-15-1 in 2022, winning only three Central Carolina Conference games. They won consecutive games only once and lost its top scorer from each of the past two seasons, Cthe Rhris Mendez, due to graduation.

Yet from the very beginning of the season, when they defeated Eno River Academy 4-2 on August 14 at Cedar Ridge Stadium, there was a different feel for Cedar Ridge this year. After the win over the Bobcats, senior midfielder Iliah Babchenko said the team’s goal was to make the state playoffs for the first time in six years. Babchenko had a goal and an assist in the season opener against Eno River.

Soon, those expectations would grow larger. Three days later, the Red Wolves started a four-game road trip with a 4-1 win over Voyager Academy in Durham. Babchenko scored on a penalty. The Red Wolves would start 4-0-1, its best start in 14 years.

The most thrilling win of the nonconference portion of the schedule came against Seaforth in Pittsboro, when the Red Wolves rallied from two goals down to beat the Hawks 3-2. Jonam Juarez scored the game-winning goal.

Babchenko was the leading scorer on the best Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team ever at the 3A level. The Red Wolves finished 12-5-3 overall, 8-2-2 in the CCC. Babchenko finished with six goals and 13 assists.

Without question, his most memorable moment of the season came against Western Alamance on September 10. Mired in a rugged, scoreless game in the final five minutes of regulation, Babchenko triggered a corner kick along the north end of Red Wolves Stadium. The ball was blocked back to Babchenko, who launched a cross into the six-yard box. Salomon Hernandez curved into the right spot and got enough contact on a header to tuck the ball into the right corner of the net, setting off a wild celebration that spilled onto the track.

The Red Wolves would hold on to beat the Warriors 1-0. The win vaulted Cedar Ridge into first place in the CCC, where they remained until the final week of the season.

“We had a great season,” Brummell said. “This is probably one of the most memorable seasons I will ever have. I feel like in the very short period I’ve been here, we’ve really turned things around. I’m going to miss Iliah, though.”

Babchenko was also directly responsible for a 2-1 win over Walter Williams in Burlington, Cedar Ridge’s first conference win ever at Kernodle Field. Babchenko scored a goal and also assisted on the game-winner from Dominic McNerney.

Last month, Southern Lee defeated Cedar Ridge 3-2 in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. It was the first time since 2015 that the Red Wolves hosted a state playoff game.

Cedar Ridge finished second in the CCC despite having just four seniors. Babchenko, emotional after his final game at Cedar Ridge, summed up a memorable senior season following the loss to the Cavaliers.

“I think we had a lot of goals for this season,” Babchenko said. “We had high expectations. I remember after the Eno River win, I said we wanted to make the state playoffs. We did it, but we didn’t get the result we wanted (against Southern Lee). But we can’t knock ourselves because we put up a fight.”

Babchenko began playing in the Mebane Youth Soccer Association, then moved on to play at Triangle United for travel soccer. His parents moved to the United States in the early 2000s from Ukraine. Babchenko’s father was the public address announcer for Red Wolves games this season at Cedar Ridge Stadium.

Cedar Ridge men’s soccer to host Southern Lee in 3A State Playoffs tonight; Orange travels to Lee Co.

When August practice started for the Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team, the goal was to make the state playoffs.

It was a common refrain. The Red Wolves haven’t been since 2016 when current Chicago Bears punter Trenton Gill played for the Red Wolves, coached by Chris Walker.

Nonetheless, it felt like a lofty goal after the Red Wolves finished 5-15-1 last year.

Then the Red Wolves started 2023 with six wins in its opening nine games. Needless to say, their goals got bigger.

Tonight (Monday), the Red Wolves will host a state playoff game inside Red Wolves Stadium for the first time since 2015.

The Red Wolves received a #14 seed for the 3A State Playoffs. They will host Southern Lee, the #19 seed from the 4A/3A Sandhills Conference tonight at 6PM.

Along the way, the Orange men’s soccer team has made its own history. The Panthers also made the field of 64 for the 3A State Tournament, receiving a #26 seed. The Panthers will journey to Sanford tonight to face Lee County, the champions of the Sandhills Conference.

It’s the first time in the 35-year history of the program that Orange (8-7-3) has made the state playoffs in back-to-back years. Orange sewed up its spot in the state playoffs with a 2-0 victory over Eastern Alamance last week in Mebane. Traver Bruhns, in his final regular season game, scored two goals. It was the first brace of his high school career.

Orange goalkeeper Finn Kelly earned the clean sheet. The winner of Lee County/Orange will face either Western Alamance or Walter Williams in the second round.

It’s a bittersweet draw for Cedar Ridge, who finished the regular season 12-4-3. While they’re hosting a state playoff game, they nearly made history by winning the Central Carolina Conference championship. It would have been the first men’s soccer championship in school history. Two weeks ago, the Red Wolves played to a scoreless tie at Western Alamance. They maintained the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Warriors and were two wins away from taking the crown. But on October 18, the Red Wolves lost to Walter Williams 1-0 on a goal by Anderson Aguilera with 6:42 remaining in regulation. Western Alamance closed with decisive wins over Person and Southern Alamance to take the conference crown.

“I couldn’t imagine that it would have gone that way this year,” said Cedar Ridge coach Chancey Brummell. “Last year was a good group of kids. I don’t think they played as a team and it showed. I thought going into this year we were going to be competitive. But if you had asked me ‘Coach, would Cedar Ridge be in contention to win the conference?’ I would have told you no. I didn’t think we were going to be up there with the likes of a Western (Alamance) and a Williams.”

If Cedar Ridge’s season could be defined in one imagine, it would be Salomon Hernandez running across the field after scoring on a header against Western Alamance with 4:17 remaining in regulation. Goalkeeper Erik Galunas would earn the clean sheet as the Red Wolves defeated the Warriors 1-0 on September 20.

“When we won the first few games, I knew then we were going to become something special,” Brummells said. “It was disappointing to come up short against Williams last week. But compared to where we were last year, I will take that any day. It’s impressive not just for the players, but I think for the program and the school. It’s shows other players that Cedar Ridge soccer is going somewhere.”

It’s Cedar Ridge’s first trip to the 3A State Playoffs since 2016, when they lost to Corinth-Holders 1-0 in the opening round. The Red Wolves were an 11-seed. Back then, the 3A State Tournament was a 32-team tournament.

The last time Cedar Ridge hosted a state playoff game inside Red Wolves Stadium, it was 2015. They defeated Northwood 2-0.

Cedar Ridge seniors Iliah Babchenko, Jonam Juarez, Jackson Baker & Abazar Babiker discuss Senior Night win

For the first time since 2016, the Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team is headed to the 3A State Playoffs. The Red Wolves celebrated a special season with a 3-1 victory over Eastern Alamance at Red Wolves Stadium. Junior Dominic McNerney scored the game-winning goal. Senior Iliah Babchenko scored on a penalty as the Red Wolves completed the regular season 12-4-5. Last year, the Red Wolves finished 5-15-1 in 2022. Cedar Ridge will likely host a game in the state playoffs on Monday night. It will be the first state playoff game of any sort contested inside Red Wolves Stadium in May 2022. Babchenko, Jonam Juarez, Jackson Baker and Abazar Babiker were all honored on Senior Night as the Red Wolves swept the season series from the Eagles. Cedar Ridge finished in 2nd place in the Central Carolina Conference, its best-ever showing as a 3A team. Cedar Ridge will venture into the field of 64 in the state playoffs, which has been the goal from the beginning of the year.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Salomon Hernandez

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior men’s soccer defender Salomon Hernandez. On September 20, Hernandez scored the game-winning goal as the Red Wolves defeated Western Alamance 1-0 at Red Wolves Stadium. It’s the only conference loss the Warriors have suffered this season and put Cedar Ridge in first place in the Central Carolina Conference. Against Southern Alamance, Hernandez scored his first career hat trick as the Red Wolves defeated the Patriots 7-2 at Red Wolves Stadium on October 4. Hernandez trains with Wake FC in Holly Springs and has also spent time with the North Carolina FC Academy in Cary. This season, he has been one of the sparkplugs for the most successful season for the Red Wolves in recent history. He has scored six goals, with additional tallies against Eastern Alamance and Person. Next week, Cedar Ridge will officially make the 3A State Playoffs for the first time since 2016, which was the goal of the team from the very beginning of the year when they defeated Eno River Academy on August 14. Hernandez has been a member of the varsity since he was a freshman. Cedar Ridge will wrap up the regular season against Eastern Alamance at Red Wolves Stadium on Tuesday night.

Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Erik Galunas discusses clean sheet vs. Western Alamance

In possibly the most important men’s soccer match in Cedar Ridge history, Red Wolf sophomore goalkeeper Erik Galunas wouldn’t let his team lose on Monday night. Galunas made numerous saves that kept Western Alamance without a goal in a scoreless tie at Primm Stadium in Elon. The win gives Cedar Ridge a slight upper-hand in its bid to win its first conference championship ever in men’s soccer. Galunas denied Western Alamance’s Luis Guerrero when he deflected a shot that rolled across the goal line. With 3:35 remaining, a deep throw in for the Red Wolves nearly ended the match in regulation. Konner Johnson sent the ball into the box, where Brian Villanueva-Herrera completed a turn from ten yards and fired, but was turned away by Galunas. The rebound went to Guerrero, who sent a rocket that Galunas somehow blocked to keep things level. Galunas earned his fifth clean sheet of the season. Cedar Ridge needs two more wins to win the CCC championship. They will host Walter Williams on Wednesday night at Red Wolves Stadium.

Stonewalled–Galunas finishes clean sheet, Cedar Ridge soccer plays scoreless tie with W. Alamance

ELON–At the end of an intense, chilly night inside Primm Stadium, the Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team huddled around a corner stick as several Western Alamance players took down the soccer nets along the east end goal post.

As Red Wolves head coach Chauncey Brummell wound down his address, one of the Western players could be overheard, perhaps deliberately, saying to his teammates “I hope we play these guys again in the state playoffs.”

Everyone around the Red Wolf huddle heard it.

At first, there was likely some offense behind it. But when you think about it, it shows a degree of credibility that the Red Wolves have earned this season.

In 2022, the Warriors beat the Red Wolves 2-0 and 2-1 en route to a second place finish in the Central Carolina Conference.

On Monday night, in a battle of two teams tied for the CCC lead, the Warriors simply couldn’t get one past Cedar Ridge sophomore goalkeeper Erik Galunas in 100 minutes of action, despite plenty of chances.

In possibly the biggest soccer match in school history, Cedar Ridge came away from Elon with a 0-0 tie against Western Alamance. The Red Wolves and the Warriors remain tied for first place in the CCC with a mark of 7-1-2. Cedar Ridge holds the head-t0-head tiebreaker over the Warriors after beating them 1-0 on September 20 after a goal by Salomon Hernandez. If the Red Wolves defeat Walter Willams on Wednesday and Eastern Alamance next week, they will clinch its first-ever conference title in men’s soccer.

Western Alamance (11-5-3) goalkeeper, sophomore Eamon Hipps, earned his sixth clean sheet of the year.

“It’s a good tie,” said Brummell, who couldn’t disguise a wide smile postgame. “I thought we played really well. These are two of the best teams in the conference. We were both at each other. I thought overall, our performance couldn’t get any better than what I asked for.”

Galunas denied one Warriors opportunity after another in the second half. The best chance by Western Alamance came with 9:47 remaining in regulation when Luis Guerrero dribbled around the left end line with Cedar Ridge’s Marcos Huerta leaning on him. At a tight angle inside the box, Guerrero avoided Galunas and got the ball under his right arm. Galunas nicked it with his finger just enough to where the ball rolled across the dark blue goal line, but not over it. It angled away from the post and went over the end line.

Western’s Jerson Hernandez fired a deflected shot with 6:50 remaining which was immediately captured by Galunas, who immediately launched a counter. Cedar Ridge’s Edber Lopez aimed a shot from 19 yards over the far post.

With 3:35 remaining, a deep throw in for the Red Wolves nearly ended the match in regulation. Konner Johnson sent the ball into the box, where Brian Villanueva-Herrera completed a turn from ten yards and fired, but was turned away by Galunas. The rebound went to Guerrero, who sent a rocket that Galunas somehow blocked to keep things level.

Karma also fell on the side of the Red Wolves in the extra session. Last week against Orange, the Panthers’ Joseph Lopez scored in the opening minute of overtime, which was the game-winner.

In the opening minute of overtime, Lopez sent a great ball to Jonam Juarez, who fired from ten yards away on a near-breakaway, only for Hipps to capture it cold.

With 1:42 remaining in overtime, Johnson’s shot from 19 yards along the right corner of the box bounced off the crossbar. The ball had so much power, it bounced off the metal and landed over the sidelines.

In the final minute, Guerrero had one last chance from ten yards under duress, but it rolled wide of the post.

Coming out of Elon, Cedar Ridge didn’t get everything they wanted, which was a win that would put them one step away from a goal they’ve never achieved. But they gained some satisfaction, mainly because of their sophomore netminder.

“I looked at Erik tonight and I thought ‘Where is MLS? Where is Barcelona?,'” Brummell said. “‘Where is Chelsea?’ Someone give him a contract. That is world class. He’s that keeper. There were shots tonight where I thought, “Oh, crap.” And he just came up big. I think Western thought they had a goal several times. He’s a sophomore, so I’m glad I have him another two years.”

The Magnificent 7, Week 8: These are the days

Throughout the 1990s, an inescapable song was “These are the Days” by 10,000 Maniacs.

You heard it on the Album Oriented Rock Radio stations, the top 40 stations, and eventually the Adult Contemporary stations.

These are the days you’ll remember. And sure enough, these next few weeks could bring unprecedented achievements for several local teams.

On Monday night, Cedar Ridge will compete in merely the biggest soccer game in school history. They travel to Western Alamance with both teams tied for first place in the Central Carolina Conference with a 7-1-1 league record. If the Red Wolves win, they will hold the all important tiebreaker against the Warriors. Cedar Ridge defeated Western Alamance 1-0 on September 20. The Warriors haven’t lost since.

There has never been a men’s soccer conference champion at Orange or Cedar Ridge High Schools.

The Orange volleyball team will enter the Central Carolina Conference tournament #1 in the 3A East Region RPI rankings. That means if Orange can hold on to the top spot, they will have home court advantage for the 3A State Playoffs for the first time in school history. Orange will host either Southern Alamance or Western Alamance in the semifinals of the CCC Tournament on Tuesday. If the Panthers secure a win on Tuesday, they will host the CCC Tournament championship match on Wednesday night.

We’ve completed playing catch up, so here’s the Magnificent 7 for the week of October 1-October 7. These are the seven best performances from last week in no particular order.

  1. Ava Wilkerson, Orange, Soph.: As a middle blocker, Wilkerson had a career-best 19 kills in Orange’s 3-0 win over Person in Roxboro. Wilkerson also had one block. Two days later, Wilkerson finished with eight kills, three blocks and an ace in Orange’s 3-1 win over Southern Alamance, which clinched the Lady Panthers first conference championship in volleyball in 18 years.
  2. Salomon Hernandez, Cedar Ridge, Jr.: Hernandez notched the first hat trick of his career in Cedar Ridge’s 7-2 win over Southern Alamance on October 4. Hernandez scored the final goal on a penalty kick in the final minute. Hernandez, who trains with Wake FC in Holly Springs during the spring and summer, has six goals this season for a Cedar Ridge team that is bidding for a conference championship.
  3. Adeline Cummings, Cedar Ridge, Jr. In the final full week of the women’s tennis regular season, Cummings had five wins for Cedar Ridge. In a 5-4 victory over Durham School of the Arts, Cummings defeated Sadie Miller at #3 singles 6-1, 6-2. Cummings also won her doubles match with partner Cameron Mayhew 6-4. Cummings also won singles matches against Eastern Alamance and Western Alamance.
  4. Makayla Davis, Orange, Sr: In Orange’s 7-2 win over Southern Alamance on Senior Night in Hillsborough, Davis had a singles win over Madalyn Corbett at #3 singles 6-0, 6-2. Later that night, Davis teamed with Molly Kruse to defeat Morgan Isley and Morgan Edmunds 8-0. Earlier that week, Davis won her singles match against Person.
  5. Abigail Klaitman, Cedar Ridge, Jr.: In a CCC women’s cross country meet at Lake Cammack Course in Burlington, Klaitman finished first in a field of 44 runners. Klaitman finished with a time of 22:23.23, barely holding off her teammate, Naomi Dyreng. The Cedar Ridge women finished third out of six teams.
  6. Ryker Stein, Orange, Sr.: Scored a goal to lead the Orange men’s soccer team past Walter Williams at Orange Soccer Field. It is believed to be the first time that Orange has ever defeated the Bulldogs in men’s soccer. Stein is a senior who notched his second marker of the season. Orange is looking to make the state playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
  7. Addie Reid, Cedar Ridge, Sr.: Just a few weeks after being named Homecoming Queen, Reid led Cedar Ridge with ten kills in its 3-0 win over Eastern Alamance. Reid also had two blocks. Reid is a rare three-sport athlete. She has been the starting goalkeeper for the Cedar Ridge women’s soccer team. Last year, she played forward in basketball.

Cedar Ridge men’s soccer discusses win over Southern Alamance

The Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team went from scoring zero goals in its conference opener against Southern Alamance last month to putting up a season-high seven goals in the rematch against the Patriots on Wednesday night at Red Wolves Stadium. In the meantime, Cedar Ridge maintained first place in the Central Carolina Conference with a 7-2 victory over the Patriots. Salomon Hernandez scored the first hat trick of his career, completing the scoring with a hat trick in the 78th minute. Senior co-Captain Illah Babchenko had three assists and added his own goal. Edber Lopez, Abazar Babiker and Dominic McNerney also scored for the Red Wolves. Cedar Ridge has won eleven games, the most since the 2015 team that won 13 games. Cedar Ridge remains in first place, one game ahead of Western Alamance for first place in the CCC. No team from Cedar Ridge has ever won a conference championship in men’s soccer. Cedar Ridge will complete the second leg of the Hillsborough Derby on Monday night at Panther Soccer Field. Cedar Ridge won the opening game against the Panthers 2-1 last month inside Red Wolves Stadium. Cedar Ridge will return home to face Eastern Alamance next Wednesday. The Red Wolves are 7-0-1 in the CCC.

Soccer Notebook: Babchenko scores game-winner to lead Cedar Ridge past Williams; Mil Cruz paces Orange over Patriots

Men’s Soccer: Cedar Ridge 2, Walter Williams 1: What could Cedar Ridge men’s soccer do to top last week?

They defeated the 2021 3A State Champions off a goal from Salomon Hernandez with under five minutes remaining, putting them in first place in the Central Carolina Conference. What could be better?

How about beating the two-time defending conference champions on the road?

At Memorial Stadium in Burlington, the Red Wolves got goals from senior Illah Banchenko and junior Dominic McNerney to defeat Walter Williams 2-1 on Monday night. Cedar Ridge, which has never won a conference championship in men’s soccer, remains in first place in the CCC at 5-0-1.

It was Cedar Ridge’s first win over Williams since the two became conference rivals in 2021. Coming into this season, the Bulldogs had lost just four conference games the past three years.

McNerney notched the opening goal off an assist from Babchenko. Later, Banchenko would score the game-winner in the first half off a free kick.

The Bulldogs scored with two seconds remaining in regulation. Cedar Ridge lost Hernandez, a centerback who captains the back line, with an ankle injury in the second half.

Babchenko has 14 points (three goals and eight assists) to lead the team. McNerney scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season. Sophomore goalkeeper Eric Galunas, who came two seconds away from earning his second straight clean sheet, made nine saves to earn his ninth win.

Northwood 3, Cedar Ridge 1: The Red Wolves five-game unbeaten streak came to an end against Northwood in a nonconfrence matchup on Tuesday night.

The Red Wolves were without Hernandez, which hurt their backline. McNerney scored the Red Wolves only goal with 37:23 remaining in the second half off a penalty kick.

Cedar Ridge (9-2-2) will hit the road to face Person on Monday night in Roxboro. With a win, they will become the first Cedar Ridge team to win ten games in a season since 2016, which was also the last time the Red Wolves reached the 3A State Playoffs.

Orange 0, Walter Williams 0: Orange played to a scoreless tie against the Bulldogs on Tuesday night at Orange Soccer Field. It ended the Bulldogs eight-game winning streak against the Panthers. Orange goalkeeper Finn Kelly made a save in the second overtime to keep the game tied. Orange is 3-5-2 overall, 2-2-1 in the CCC.

Orange 3, Southern Alamance 2: Traveling to Redmon Stadium in Graham, Orange scored the opening goal and held on to defeat the Patriots in its first-ever conference matchup between the Patriots and the Panthers. Daniel Romero, who scored his first goal of the season against Person last week, notched the owner for the Panthers on a marker assisted by senior Emmanuel Mil Cruz. Later, Cruz would add his second goal for Orange, who captured its second straight victory.

In the second half, Mil Cruz scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season off an assist from sophomore Yurem Tapia Mendez to put Orange ahead 2-0. After the Patriots cut Orange’s lead in half after a tally from William Clark, Tapia Mendez scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal. Heinzen Amaya added an additional goal for the Patriots for the final scoreline.

Kelly, Orange’s senior goalkeeper, made 12 saves. one shy of his season-high. In Orange’s CCC opener against Western Alamance on September 6, Kelly finished with 13 saves.

Orange clinched consecutive wins for the first time this season and still stands a fighting chance to make the 3A State playoffs for the second straight year. Currently, the Panthers are ranked #30 in the 3A East RPI rankings as of Wednesday morning following the draw against Williams. The top 32 teams make the state playoffs.

Last year, Orange reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2017, where they lost to J.H. Rose. As fate would have it, if the season ended today, Orange would travel to face Rose in the opening round.


Cedar Ridge’s Salomon Hernandez, Iliah Babchenko & Dominic McNerney discuss win over W. Alamance

The Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team is in first place in the Central Carolina Conference. In its biggest win in over a decade, the Red Wolves stunned Western Alamance 1-0 at Red Wolves Stadium on Wednesday night. It appeared the two teams would end regulation in a scoreless tie until Salomon Hernandez scored on a header from Illah Babchenko with 4:17 remaining. Hernandez had a strong game defensively, playing along the back line and limiting the Warriors offensive flow in a game that had even possession time between the two teams. Babchenko, a senior co-Captain, had his eighth assist of the season. Another Captain, Dominic McNerney, triggered various Cedar Ridge attacks throughout the night. It was Cedar Ridge’s first win over Western Alamance, the 2021 3A State Champions, since the two teams became conference rivals two years ago. Cedar Ridge is now 4-0-1 in the CCC, the only undefeated team in the CCC in league play. The Red Wolves are 8-1-2 overall. For a team that had a goal of making the 3A State Playoffs when the season started seven weeks ago, Cedar Ridge is now bidding to become a conference champion. They will continue that pursuit tonight (Monday) when they face Walter Williams in Burlington.