CARY – New Hanover sped past Hough 3-0 in the Class 4-A State Championship Match, winning the Wildcats’ first state championship in program history. The Wildcats opened on the attack outshooting Hough 14-3, with 10 of those 14 on frame, in the opening half on their way to a dominating win last weekend.
Aidan Payne was selected as the match’s MVP with two goals and an assist in the game. He constantly caused problems for the Hough defense with his pace and skilled footwork, creating space and finding holes in the finishing third of the field.
The Wildcats opened the scoring early as Payne found Charlie Letson on a cross through the box. Letson let loose a blast off his right foot into the low left portion of the goal to give New Hanover a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute. In the 26th minute, Payne opened his account as a deflected ball in the Hough defense fell to his right foot and he made no mistake with the finish to go up 2-0.
To cap off the night, Payne netted his 54th goal of the season as Andy McCague dropped a high ball into the box leading Payne to a wide open right footed finish. Payne’s marker in the 60th minute closed out the scoring and allowed the Wildcats to relax a bit into a more defensive posture, though Payne did threaten a few more chances vying for a hat trick.
Hough finished the season 22-4-1. The Huskies were 11-1 and champions of the Queen City 3A/4A Conference. The Huskies won their second Western Regional Final appearing in the State Championship for the first time since 2017.
New Hanover wrapped up their 2021 campaign with a 26-0-1 record. The Wildcats were the champions of the Mideastern 3A/4A at 14-0-0 in league play. New Hanover won their third Eastern Regional Championship and appeared in their second straight State Championship Match.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with NC Farm Bureau to recognize two student-athletes from each state championship who have demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship throughout the year. The winners of the 2021 4A Men’s Soccer NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards were Preston Lian from New Hanover and Griffin Klebba from Hough.