Enka, Owen Soccer Seasons End in State Semifinals - TribPapers

Enka, Owen Soccer Seasons End in State Semifinals

Top Owen scorer Elijah Caro races downfield on a “rush,” in the 2A state semifinal match. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Black Mountain – Two exciting playoff runs concluded with shutout defeats on Nov. 14, as Owen lost 3-0 at home while Enka dropped a tight 1-0 game at number one seed Hickory.

The 11th seed Enka Jets (20-6-1) pushed 3A top-seeded Hickory (23-2-2) for the full 80 minutes, in a road match. The Red Tornadoes did not sweep away the Jets, despite having four players (three of them seniors) who’ve scored 16-19 goals.

Enka’s playoff highlight was upsetting sixth-seeded Piedmont 1-0 in round two. The Jets complete what is hailed as their first-ever 20-win season in program history, and advanced the furthest in playoffs in 30 years. Enka was state runner-up in 1988, when there were merely four playoff rounds. Enka head coach Jason ReMine, a 1996 Enka grad, was 10 when watching that game in person. “That was a huge part of my life.”

Owen’s Owen Lollis (7) battles Davidson’s Bennett Skinner (22) for the ball, in the regional finals. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Owen’s Owen Lollis (7) battles Davidson’s Bennett Skinner (22) for the ball, in the regional finals. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

In 2023, the Jets were fourth in the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC). But they advanced furthest in playoffs. “We’re battle-tested, playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state,” ReMine said. “Everybody started to click” in the playoffs. “Everybody did their jobs. We made huge plays.”

Brandon Miranda led Enka with 23 goals and ten assists. “Brandon is an incredible player,” ReMine said.

Behind him was tremendous scoring balance. Four Jets each scored six goals, including seniors Tanner Cumbow and Jonathan Jimenez-Hernandez. One had five goals. Four Jets each contributed four goals. “We’re dangerous. We have many other players who can score goals,” ReMine said.

Miranda, a junior, will lead the young Jets again in 2024. Merely a handful are seniors. “We don’t lose anybody in the midfield or on the attack,” ReMine. Sophomore Julian Thingvoll had the most (five) shutouts of three Jet varsity goalkeepers.

Spartan Existence

Owen (20-2-3) was seeded first time, after winning it all as an underdog 10th seed in 2022. Head coach Trei Morrison told the Tribune that he sensed that the players may have succumbed to “pressure to hold the standard” as a favorite.

Owen lost to the second-seeded Community School of Davidson (CSD). Preston Cock scored twice for the cocksure Spartans (22-2-1). He has 39 goals. Fellow senior Cameron Lawrence scored his 25th goal.

Davidson scored twice in a span of two and a half minutes of the first half, and added a goal with 9:46 remaining. The first two scores were on sudden shots off of turnovers, deflecting off of goalkeeper James Centers’ hands. He made several outstanding saves, keeping Owen in it.

Morrison said that the Warhorses beat themselves with turnovers and thereby were “losing,” then were truly outplayed and “beaten” only in the second half.

The Spartans made Owen scoring quite a “Spartan existence,” with their shutout. The Warhorses got off few shots. They uncharacteristically had trouble moving the ball upfield. Spartan ball thieves converged on Warhorses, taking away the ball or deflecting or intercepting passes.

In such ways, “they did to us what we usually do to other teams,” Coach Morrison remarked. At halftime, he urged players on. “Want the ball. Get the ball!”

The team chanted its main motto: “Play hard. Play smart. Play together. Play to win.”

Owen played more aggressively later on, earning more short-circuited “rushes” downfield. Coach Morrison told his Warhorses, “I’m so proud of you.” He praised their “single-mindedness.’

CSD is allowed to openly recruit within a 25-mile radius of the populous Charlotte area, Owen athletic director Chris Collins noted.

Future is Bright

Enka is led a senior duo. Elijah Caro finishes with 24 goals. Daniel Garcia scored 20 times. Spencer Woolley has 16 goals. Josiah Wilder and A.J. Loan each scored 14 goals.

The other four are seniors, but Wooley is among five key sophomores who will carry on Warhorse success. “Look to the future,” A.D. Collins told non-seniors, in their post-game huddle.

Davis Kendall told the Tribune that after missing most of his junior season with an injury, he is very eager to help Owen in 2024 secure another state title. He was a 50-goal scorer as a sophomore.

GK Centers is also a junior. But he told the Tribune that he plans to hike the Appalachian Trail, then travel instead of playing soccer next fall.

Around 500 tickets were sold for the final home match, with 450 going to Owen fans for another strong turnout, A.D. Collins said. Collins praised fan “excitement.” He told Warhorse players that with their play and winning ways, “you made this happen!”