FAYETTEVILLE — Cleveland is just getting used to yearly trips to the state boys’ soccer playoffs. Terry Sanford has been there again and again.
The Bulldogs’ senior-laden lineup rolled to a 7-0 victory Saturday night in the second round of the 3A playoffs, ending Cleveland’s season with a 9-11-2 record.
The win was Terry Sanford’s 13th in as many tries on its home pitch.
Standout senior captain Charles Jones sparked an offense that put in two quick goals, the first by Kristopher McMurray, then the first of two from Andrew Henrickson. The Bulldogs led 4-0 at the half.
“They possessed the ball really well and they moved it well,” said Cleveland goalkeeper Gio Solis. “They’re a very quick team and when they get the ball on the foot of (Charles Jones), they can really give you a lot of problems.”
The match, even with the loss, was a showcase of Solis’ goalkeeping skills. He made 18 saves in about 60 minutes of play before giving way to Ethan Fellows. The oohs and ahs that came from the crowd came just as often after sprawling saves by Solis and they did during the Bulldogs’ efficient and quick goals.
“I feel bad and good at the same time,” Solis said. “I felt like I made all of the saves I could have made in the first half but I didn’t play as well in the second half. It’s good and bad (the attention). But you want to win and we didn’t win.”
The Rams flipped their alignment at the half from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 trying to get more of an attack going. It worked in the sense that the Rams had more possession of the ball but it didn’t produce any goals for a Cleveland squad trying to adjust to playing without one of its leading offensive threats: Jhavonte Moon, who missed the match because of a commitment to a national wrestling tournament.
With 27 minutes to play, Cleveland had scoring chances with a solid cross through the box and an ensuing corner kick followed by a free kick but the Bulldogs cleared away all three of those chances.
Cleveland will lose a half dozen seniors to graduation: Jorge Gonzalez, Nick Brinke, Fed Planchon, Brett Koehmstedt, Cody Raynor and Moon.
“The seniors last year helped us make a playoff run and the seniors from this year were a part of that and led us to another trip to the playoffs and a playoff win,” said Cleveland coach Fab Bonilla. “Your goal is to reach the playoffs every season. Now it’s up to the sophomores and juniors to continue that trend.
“If you want to become a team that makes the second and third round consistently, first you’ve got to be a consistent playoff qualifier and we’ve reached that point.”
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