Soccer’s oldest N.C. rivalry? When Mecklenburg meets Wake County, it’ll continue state finals matchups that first began in 1978

By Richard Walker

When Myers Park meets Cardinal Gibbons for the N.C. 4A high school state boys soccer championship, it’ll continue one of the state’s oldest soccer rivalries.

Action from the 1978 East Mecklenburg at Sanderson state championship high school soccer game as it appeared in the Nov. 18, 1978 News and Observer.

It’s not the matchup between the two teams that will play at 11 a.m. at Koke Booth Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, it’ll be the matchup between schools from Mecklenburg County and Wake County for a state title.

Saturday’s meeting will be the 18th championship game matchup between schools in those counties in the past 43 seasons.

The first time the counties met with a state title on the line came on Nov. 17, 1978 at Sanderson’s Gregson Stadium.

And in a foreshadowing of the spirited rivalry that was to come, Sanderson edged East Mecklenburg 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Brad Dixon.

It marked the first of 14 wins by Wake County high schools over Mecklenburg County schools in state title matchups.

Only Providence High in 1992, 1995 and 2000 has won in state championship soccer games against Wake County schools.

Providence broke through initially in that school’s fourth year of 1992 when it overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit in a 4-1 home victory over Sanderson. Coach Bob Bowen’s was led by game most valuable player Scott Thomas’ two goals.

Over the years, East Mecklenburg (1978, 1996, 2004), South Mecklenburg (1985), Myers Park (1988, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2018), North Mecklenburg (1998, 2005, 2006), Providence (2016) and Hough (2017) have all lost in the state finals to Wake County schools.

In the early years, Sanderson won four of its state-record 11 titles at the expense of Mecklenburg County schools, beating East Mecklenburg in 1978 and 1996, South Mecklenburg in 1985, Myers Park in 1988.

Since Myers Park has suffered the most heartbreak – with five state finals losses to Wake County Schools – the Mustangs will surely be motivated to rewrite history.

Myers Park is 1-7 in its previous seven N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship games. The Mustangs first loss came in 1970 when only a few schools even played soccer and they were defeated by crosstown rival Independence 2-0 in that’s year final.

The NCHSAA began holding soccer state finals in 1927 and the first 10 documented champions came from the Triad area of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.

When the NCHSAA resumed soccer championships in 1966, Mecklenburg County schools like East Mecklenburg, Independence, Myers Park and South Mecklenburg were early powers.

East Mecklenburg won the county’s first soccer state title in 1968 when it routed Fayetteville Terry Sanford 8-1 in a championship played at N.C. State. Coach Ahmed Kayed’s Eagles won as Bill Harding scored three goals.

Myers Park’s lone title came in 2008 when it downed Wilmington New Hanover 4-3 behind MVP Justin Davis.

Myers Park celebrates the Western N.C. 4A title it won earlier this week at home against Northwest Guilford.

This year’s Mustangs feature three players from the 2018 state runner-up in current seniors Liam Trosch and Carter Hensley and junior Alex Heffner. Heffner is the top goal scorer (10) for coach Bucky McCarley’s team.

Other Myers Park players are seniors Miles Brown and Matthew Guarda, juniors Gannon Peters, Case Kabrich, Grayson Woods and Thomas Killeen and sophomores Brown Blanton and Michael Guarda. Killeen lead the Mustangs in assists (13).