They lingered on the field for more than an hour after it was over. Signing autographs, taking pictures, hugging each other and taking turns hoisting the cup.
It was a fitting celebration for a club that finally returned to its championship roots after a seven-year absence.
Lamar Neagle scored in the first half and Ian Fuller got the game-winner early in the second half to lead Charleston past Richmond, 2-1, to capture the USL Second Division championship Saturday night before a crowd of 4,523 at Blackbaud Stadium.
It was the franchise's third United Soccer League title and their second USL-2 title since the club was founded in 1993. The Battery won the USL-2 title in 1996 and the A-League crown in 2003.
It was a physical match between the two long-standing rivals that featured a red card, four yellow cards and 24 fouls.
"It was a cup final," said Battery captain John Wilson, who announced his retirement after the game. "We knew it was going to be a physical match. We knew it was going to be hard fought. I thought we dug in there and came out with a great win."
It was also a classic match from the fiery Fuller, who thought his career was over and had settled into being the team's assistant coach in April.
"I honestly thought my playing days were over," Fuller said. "I didn't think I'd be healthy enough to play, so to come out here and get a goal and win a championship is a special feeling."
The Battery certainly didn't make it easy on themselves as they were forced to play a man down for the final hour of the match after defender Colin Falvey was issued a red card in the 30th minute. Falvey tried to clear a ball, but it bounced off of Richmond striker Matthew Delicate. Delicate picked up the loose ball and had a clear path to the goal about 10 yards
outside the penalty area. Falvey tried to make up ground, but clipped Delicate, sending him to the ground.
"I had a split-second decision to make and I went for the tackle," Falvey said. "I could have let him go in all alone, but (Delicate) probably ties the game. If I go for the tackle, then maybe I get a yellow card. Unfortunately it was a red card. I can't really disagree with the call.
"I know I put the boys under a bit of pressure, but they responded. Obviously, right now I can say it was the right decision. The boys picked me up. They played so well after I went out. I'll buy 'em a few drinks tonight in the pub."
It was a gritty defensive effort from a team that had been known for its offense this season not their clean sheets.
"Even a man down we defended properly and you can't win a championship without defending well," said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. "The back four did a tremendous job. John Wilson, Mike Zaher, Nigel Marples and O'Brian Wodbine really stepped up for us tonight."
The Battery grabbed a 1-0 lead on Lamar Neagle's goal in the 26th minute off a corner kick. Zaher sent a searching ball into the six-yard box. Fuller trapped the loose ball, pivoted and shot on goal. Tom Heinemann got a piece of the ball and Neagle poked it home for the score and the early lead.
"Right place at the right time," said Neagle, who was named the USL-2 MVP on Friday. "Great ball in and I was in front of the net. The ball came right to me and I just tried to get it past their keeper."
The Battery pushed their advantage to 2-0 in the 52nd minute on Fuller's goal. Again it was Zaher's service into the box that got things started. The former UCLA star sent a bending ball in from about 35 yards out. The ball bounced off Heineamann's head and to the feet of Fuller, who turned and slammed the ball past Richmond keeper Ronnie Pascale.
The Kickers cut the lead in half, 2-1, on Edson Elcock's goal in the 73rd minute. Richmond defender Sacha Gorres made a strong run down the left flank and sent a beautiful cross to the back post. Elcock ran past the Charleston defender and volleyed the ball past Charleston keeper Tim Melia.
In the waning seconds of stoppage time, Delicate, who finished with 11 goals during the regular season, volleyed a loose ball just outside of the penalty box that should have been the tying goal. But Fuller headed the sure goal off the line to end the threat.
"What an incredible play from Ian," said Melia, who finished with eight saves.
"There was no way I was going to get there and Ian came up with a huge play. That's a veteran play and one you kind of expect from a playing like Ian."