CLINTON – East Duplin simply ran into “an excellent” team in Clinton, coach Joey Jones said.
The No. 22-seeded Panthers’ soccer season came to an end Saturday night with a 2-0 loss at the second-seeded Dark Horses in the NCHSAA 2-A East Regional semifinal.
It marked East Duplin’s third defeat this year to East Central Conference rival Clinton.
“I’m very proud of our effort,” Jones said. “The last time we played Clinton, they had a fury of goals on us. They started the second half with three goals in three minutes. Tonight, we did a better job against them.”
Clinton (24-1) will visit top-seeded (19-1-1) on Tuesday in the regional final. East Duplin ended 16-7-2.
The Panthers and Dark Horses were scoreless in the first half. However, Clinton’s Parker Norris scored on a free kick about midway through to second half to give his team a 1-0 lead.
“Their trademark the last number of years is how good they are on free kicks,” Jones said. “You have to defend them. He (Norris) just snuck up on us.”
Despite the defeat, Jones said this was a successful season. The Panthers finished third in the ECC before defeating conference foe James Kenan on the road in the first round and then winning two more road playoff games.
“Our team was an overachiever in some ways,” Jones said. “We started kind of rough but we felt before the hurricane that we made some strides. Then we had a lay off for five weeks. We got our focus back when we returned with the idea of playing well to get in the playoffs and then seeing what we could do.”