Two days before it plays in the Sun Belt Championship Game as the East Division's…
It was all gas no brakes for First Flight as they concluded an undefeated season with a 3-0 shutout against Hickory, who were the reigning state champions, to win their second NCHSAA Men’s Soccer Championship.
Both the Nighthawks and Red Tornadoes defenders made strong plays early as goalie Colin Rhodes from First Flight made two saves and senior goalie Watts Tate from Hickory made three saves early in the first half.
First Flight was the first to score as they found the net in the 17th minute. Nathan Tsonev made the connection to Cam Summerton on a corner kick.
Keeping up with their momentum, First Flight’s Seth Albright assisted Curren Breiholz in the 39th minute to take a 2-0 lead for the Nighthawks going into halftime.
Kicking off the second half, Marvin Hernandez took a chance for a power shot from between the penalty arc and the center circle and knocked it in the upper right corner, securing a 3-0 lead for First Flight. Senior David Escobedo and Senior Justin Ortiz were notably tough on defense, but it wasn’t enough for First Flight’s connective passes and hustle up and down the field.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to recognize two athletes from each State Championship event with the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards. The Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2023 3A Men’s Soccer State Championship Match were William (Burke) Powers from First Flight and Will Moore from Hickory.
The NCHSAA is proud to partner with Wells Fargo to present the Most Valued Player award in the 3A State Championship match to Colin Rhodes from First Flight.
“It’s about team unity, team effort, and teamwork,” said First Flight Head Coach Juan Ramirez “We have the skills and the talent, but the one thing you cannot coach is team comradery, and that’s one of the things that we have.”
Hickory Head Coach Brian Jillings noted the success of his own team. “This is such a fantastic group. Not only athletes on the pitch, but also off the field. They play for each other, they play hard, they are just the epitome of student-athlete and the kind of kids you want to work with.”
Hickory finished the season with a 23-3-2 record. This is Hickory’s 7th appearance in the state finals, winning the state championship title in 2001 and 2022, and being runner-up in 1997, 2001, 2010, 2012, and now 2023.
First Flight finished the season with a 21-0-1 record. This is First Flight’s 5th appearance in the state finals, winning the championship title in 2016 and now 2023, and being runner-up in 2013, 2014, and 2017. This was First Flight’s first appearance in the State Championship as a 3A school. Their previous appearances were as a 2A school.