The Academic Magnet soccer program's motto is "One Vision. One Goal. One Heartbeat."
Tuesday night, the mantra might have well been "If at first you don't succeed, try again."
The Academic Magnet boys had their chances in Tuesday night's Class A Lower State championship against Hardeeville at Ravenel Stadium. But as the game ticked down to the final minutes, all the Raptors had were missed opportunities and frustration.
They outshot the Hurricanes 15-5, including 7-1 on shots on goal. But as the match entered the 75th minute it was still 0-0. That changed in a split second as the Raptors scored the only goal on their 16th shot of the night to post a 1-0 victory. Miles Bagwell assisted Davis Michaelsen, who beat Hardeeville keeper Federica Garcia on a shot in front of the net to give the Raptors their third straight trip to the state championship match.
"This is the third year in a row," said Magnet co-coach Jason Hamil. "You're always glad to get there and you want the kids to soak up the environment. But this year, it's a little more of a business trip."
The Raptors will play Christ Church at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. Christ Church beat Southside Christian, 4-3, in a penalty-kick shootout. The Raptors will be making their fourth overall appearance in the title match, and for the fourth time they will battle Christ Church. Academic Magnet played Christ Church in the title game in 2005 and suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat. In '08, the two schools played to a 0-0 tie after 80 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of OT, but the Cavaliers won, outscoring the Raptors, 3-1, in penalty kicks.
Last year, Christ Church won its ninth straight state title, topping the Raptors 2-0. The Cavaliers scored 74 seconds into the match and broke the Raptors with another goal in the 22nd minute.
Saturday's championship will mark the final game for Raptor co-coach Troy Bennage. He is stepping down after 35 years as a coach at Stall and Magnet, and owns more than 500 career soccer victories.
He said he was concerned about Tuesday's outcome, even though the Raptors dominated the match.
"I was a little worried, although the momentum swung our way the last 20 minutes," Bennage said. "The opportunities were there. We just didn't take advantage of them."
Said Hamil: "We knew they would come out fired up. They were coming off a big win and there was a lot of emotion. "We tried to pull their goalie farther and farther away from the nest, but he's a good athlete. I'm just glad we got one by him."