DENVER, N.C. — Forgive Southern Piedmont 1A champion Lincoln Charter and Northwest 1A co-champion Mount Airy if they think the NCHSAA 1A playoff system for soccer is a bit broken.
The Eagles were rewarded for their SP1A title with a first-round bye, and then hit the field to begin their playoff run and found it over in 90 minutes, at the hands of a team with one loss all season.
Fifth-ranked Mount Airy, arguably the best wild-card team to ever compete in an NCHSAA playoff bracket, knocked off Lincoln Charter 1-0 on Saturday afternoon in a match that deserved to be seen later in the tournament. Freshman Jarrett Jimenez scored in the first half to put the Granite Bears in front, and keeper Jesus Valadez and the rest of the Mount Airy defense made it stand up the rest of the evening.
Lincoln Charter, which had won 10 straight matches before hosting the Bears, finished its season with a 14-6 record. Mount Airy, which began the season 17-0 before tying 10th-ranked Starmount and losing to No. 4 Bishop McGuinness, both on the road, improved to 21-1-1.
Four Mount Airy players were credited with double-digit steals in the win over Lincoln Charter, led by Dante Collins with 13. Jackson Tumbarello had 12, with Robert Brown and Luis Osorno having 10 each.
The Bears had a 12-5 edge in shots on goal.
It doesn’t get any easier when Mount Airy continues its playoff run on Wednesday evening. The Bears will be at Gray Stone Day (19-1-1), the state’s 11th-ranked 1A team. The Knights shared the Yadkin Valley 1A title with North Moore this season, and like Lincoln Charter, come in on a 10-game winning streak. They had a first-round bye and then beat Queen’s Grant 3-2 on Saturday.
Mount Airy, the 12th seed in the tournament, is the only double-digit seed remaining in the 1A West field. It has the best overall record of any of them, however.