Hobbton, conference and tournament champions. David Johnson|Sampson Independent
There was limited parking at Hobbton High as the crowd arrived for Thursday’s Carolina 1A Conference Championship. The Hobbton Lady Cats faced the Neuse Charter Lady Cougars in an on-field battle between the biggest Cats in the conference.
Neuse opened early with a Cougar striker finding space on the back line. Hobbton was caught off guard but the forward missed, a sigh of relief was heard from the stands.
Hobbton had trouble shutting down the back line early on. The Cougars exploited weaknesses in the back line and used their speed to get close to the edges. Hobbton remained unmoved and pushed Neuse outside, keeping a clean goal.
The Lady Cats demonstrated their ferocity with plenty of promising opportunities at the net. Neuse was beginning to break with the relentless offensive front that the Cats delivered. McKayla Harris broke through and missed the far post by a minute’s margin. The Cougars were within Hobbton’s sight as pressure from his team pushed them further and further back. Finally, the Cats broke through with just under twenty-six to play when Harris sent Nocle Hernandez’s groundout past the Cougar goaltender for the game’s first goal.
The game was progressing and Neuse was being ground down with physical attacking play and accurate passing. Harris would make his mark once again with power as he blasted through two defenders for space to send a laser into the back of the net. hobbton with
A collision resulted in the fall of a Cougar. After a short break in the game, Hobbton received a yellow card for the incident. The pace took an interesting turn after the undercard when Hobbton looked exhausted. Neuse delivered a rather tough tackle much to the chagrin of the home teams. The Cougars were on the receiving end of a bit of luck as some misplay by the Hobbton goalkeeper resulted in an easy goal for Neuse, putting them just one behind with 11 minutes to play.
With 1:30 left in the first. Harris wasn’t done as he positioned himself perfectly for the free kick. His foot lined up with the ball and he sent it straight into the net for the hat-trick goal, making it 3-1. The half settled down and spirits were high at Al Britt Field as the Lady Cats saw gold. Forty minutes to go in the game to decide the Carolina 1A champions.
Hobbton started the second half at full speed, putting Neuse on their heels early on. The Cougars’ defense pinched the center and stifled Hobbton momentarily.
However, the engine was roaring and the Cats showed no signs of fatigue as they sent a seemingly continuous wave of offense at the Cougar goalie. Neuse held them off for as long as possible, but Arceceli Velasquez sent a zinger into the net, extending his lead to three.
The match became a more physical affair. Bodies fell onto the field of play and the blows grew louder as the trophy began to slip from Neuse’s hands. The battle for midfield was contentious as the pressure mounted for the Cougars with seconds ticking off the clock. Hobbton began to slow down and Neuse increased it a bit. They caught the Lady Cats off guard and put a goal past the keeper to make it 4-2. There were only three minutes left in the game and the Lady Cougars had enough in the tank for one more drive.
The Lady Cats, ready, stole the ball and wound up the clock still bringing Neuse on her heels.
The whistle blew and Hobbton ran onto the field in jubilation as they won their fifteenth straight game. They won the Carolina 1A Conference, 4-2, remaining undefeated in the league at 10-0.
Their journey is not over yet, as seeding for the state championship will take place next week. Hobbton ends the regular season with an 18-1-1 record. Watch video highlights of the game on Sampson Independent’s social media channels (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) or on our website www.clintonnc.com!