NORTH AUGUSTA 1, INDIAN LAND 0
NORTH AUGUSTA -- It wasn't just lip service a year ago when Michael Vaughan said he felt like his North Augusta boys' soccer team had a chance to get right back to the Class AAAA state championship game.
It was a confident message delivered just minutes after heartbreak, as a dream run ended in a 1-0 defeat against Eastside.
The Jackets were going to have to find a way to replace a lot of talent - a fact further reinforced Wednesday when several of their eight graduated seniors, some of them now members of college programs, were behind the bench in street clothes as spectators as North Augusta faced Indian Land in the second round of the state playoffs.
Vaughan still believes what he said that night after he walked off the field at Irmo High School, and Wednesday his team backed up that belief with a hard-fought 1-0 victory to set up a third-round game Friday at home - in a rematch against Eastside.
"We knew we lost a ton of talent, a ton of experience last year," Vaughan said. "I knew what we had coming up, and I thought, honestly, if they could jell and get that culture that we have in their blood, in their veins, that they're capable of this. They have the talent. We talk about above-the-waist stuff - in here and up here, the head and the heart.
"The young guys have the talent, if not more talent than we had last year. They're getting that edge. They're understanding why we're here and what it's all about, and I couldn't be prouder of them. A 1-0 game starting a freshman and a sophomore in the midfield, that's pretty remarkable. I'm super happy and super proud, and we'll see how the next round goes."
Junior Henry Martinez netted the eventual game-winner for the Jackets (15-3-3) about 18 minutes into the second half, taking a pass from freshman Blake Fuss and threading it into the net.
That was a needed breakthrough for an offense that generated some scoring chances in the first half, most notably one from senior Harrison Holloway that hit the post, but didn't finish with the ball in the back of the net.
"I told them to be brave, and I felt we had good opportunities," Vaughan said. "We had good service in, and sometimes I think there was maybe an ounce of doubt that didn't need to be there. Not with (Martinez) on that play. He went, he yelled for the ball, he saw his opening, he was brave, he took it, and we won the game off of it."
Indian Land (17-6-1) needed to rally, and the Warriors sent plenty of pressure toward the net. Jackets keeper Justus Holden, who stopped a penalty kick late in the first half, made one big save on an Indian Land free kick with about 20 minutes left and then steered another scoring opportunity just wide of the near post.
The shutout was the 13th of the season for the Jackets, as Holden and their back line worked together to limit the stress on their end as much as they could.
"The back line has some experience, but they're all underclassmen including the goalkeeper. The communication's key," Vaughan said. "I thought it was useful. Things can go horribly wrong if we're not doing that. I thought they were all on the same page. They're moving together. They're covering each other, vocally as well as physically. I just thought it was a tremendous effort in the organization and the dedication. It takes hard work."
Indian Land's second half, aside from the goal, was marred by yellow cards as several Warriors players couldn't hold in their frustrations - one was carded after turning to deliver some choice words and a gesture to the North Augusta bench, another for firing a shot toward the net well after being whistled for being offside, another for all but daring the official to give him one.
Vaughan said that was unfortunate, because the actions of a few undermined what had been a great effort by a talented team. Instead, the Warriors got off track and couldn't get on it in time to save their season.
"Again, that's above-the-waist stuff. Keeping your head. It's hard," Vaughan said. "These are young men, and they're passionate about what they're doing. They're passionate about their roles. They want to accomplish them, and when things start to go sideways - it's not just young men, it's any men. I was really proud they didn't get baited into anything. They took a lot of physical contact. They got a little bit of vocal stuff sent their way. But we just talk about let your soccer do the talking."
Up next for the Jackets, who went unbeaten in Region 4-AAAA play to extend their region win streak to 26 games, is another crack at Eastside. The state championship rematch is an Upper State semifinal due to South Carolina High School League realignment.
Catawba Ridge 5, South Aiken 0
South Aiken's (10-7) season came to an end Wednesday in a 5-0 loss to Catawba Ridge in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Greenville Tech 1, Silver Bluff 0
Silver Bluff's season came to an end Wednesday, with the Bulldogs (9-4) falling on the road to Greenville Tech in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
Bishop England 6, Barnwell 1
Barnwell's (5-10) season came to an end Wednesday with a road loss to Bishop England in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
St. Joseph's 9, Ridge Spring-Monetta 0
Ridge Spring-Monetta's (4-10) season ended Wednesday with a second-round loss at St. Joseph's in the Class A playoffs.
North Augusta 10, Indian Land 3
Region 4-AAAA champion North Augusta moved to 2-0 in the postseason with a home win Wednesday over Indian Land.
The Jackets (13-8) will be back at home Friday to face Laurens, which defeated Greenwood 11-9 on Wednesday.
Catawba Ridge 8, South Aiken 0
South Aiken was shut out on the road Wednesday, pushing the T-Breds to the brink of elimination.
South Aiken's opponent in Friday's elimination game will be a familiar one: crosstown rival Aiken. The T-Breds will host.
Aiken 3, York 1
Aiken eliminated York with a 3-1 win Wednesday to extend the Hornets' season.
Trey Johnson pitched a two-hitter, Lane Dunagan hit a home run and Cross Yarborough added an RBI for Aiken (10-13), which will play another elimination game Friday across town against rival South Aiken.
Northwestern 14, Midland Valley 2
Midland Valley's (4-22) season came to an end Wednesday with a 14-2 loss at Northwestern.
Predators, Rebels' Fallaw win Region 3-AA golf titles
Fox Creek captured the Region 3-AA boys' golf title on a windy Wednesday at Mount Vintage Golf Club, with Strom Thurmond's Charlie Fallaw winning the individual title to claim Region Player of the Year honors.
The Predators finished with a team score of 343, 24 shots clear of second-place Batesburg-Leesville. Strom Thurmond (377) was third, followed by Silver Bluff (426) and Pelion (496).
Fallaw won the individual title with a score of 80, and he was joined on the All-Region team by Fox Creek's Joel Carroll (82), Batesburg-Leesville's Nathan Ott (85), Fox Creek's Joe Monaco (86) and Fox Creek's John Riley (87).
The Predators are region champions for the seventh consecutive year, and they will be in the field for the Class AA state championship May 15-16 at Newberry Country Club.
Strom Thurmond 15, Keenan 0
Region 3-AA champion Strom Thurmond opened the postseason with a bang, blowing out Keenan 15-0 on Wednesday to begin the Class AA playoffs.
The Rebels (19-2) will host Ninety Six, an 8-5 winner over Landrum on Wednesday, in a winners' bracket game Friday.
Fox Creek 18, Columbia 2
Fox Creek made quick work of Columbia High on Wednesday, opening the Class AA playoffs with an 18-2 victory.
The Predators (16-8) will hit the road Friday for a winners' bracket game against Chesnee, a 10-0 winner over Saluda on Wednesday.
Mid-Carolina 10, Silver Bluff 0 (5 innings)
Silver Bluff fell victim to a perfect game Wednesday at Mid-Carolina, falling 10-0 in five innings.
The Bulldogs (3-17) will play an elimination game Friday at Fairfield Central, which lost 16-0 to Liberty on Wednesday.
Wagener-Salley 22, St. Joseph's 2
Region 4-A champion Wagener-Salley started the Class A playoffs with a lopsided win over St. Joseph's.
The War Eagles (14-6) will be at home Friday for a winners' bracket game against Whitmire, which defeated Great Falls 15-0 on Wednesday.
Ridge Spring-Monetta 23, Southside Christian 8
Ridge Spring-Monetta rolled to a big win over Southside Christian on Wednesday in the Class A playoff opener.
The Trojans (13-7) will be on the road Friday for a winners' bracket game against Dixie, which defeated C.A. Johnson 20-0 in two innings Wednesday.
Williston-Elko 8, Brashier Middle College 5
Williston-Elko scored a road victory over Brashier Middle College on Wednesday to begin the Class A postseason.
The Blue Devils (9-9) will be on the road Friday for a winners' bracket game at Lewisville, which defeated Calhoun Falls 15-0 in three innings Tuesday.