Bishops prevail

Bishop England’s Joel Bunting (left) and Academic Magnet’s Ethan Hanson go for the ball during the Class AA Lower State final on Tuesday. Bunting scored one of the goals in the penalty-kick shootout to help lift the Bishops over the Raptors.

It was a real nail-biter Tuesday night at Ravenel Stadium.

Bishop England and Academic Magnet played to a 0-0 draw after 80 minutes of regulation, two 10-minute overtimes and another two five-minute sudden-death overtimes.

All that was at stake was the Class AA Lower State championship and bragging rights for the next year, and it came down to penalty kicks.

The Bishops outscored the Raptors, 3-1, in PKs as goalie Ross Rogers came up with two big saves while another Raptors shot sailed above the crossbar. The Bishops were a little more precise as Drew Costa, Nick Saunders and Joel Bunting scored on penalty kicks to give the Bishops their first win in three tries against Academic Magnet this spring.

The Bishops will play for the state championship against Indian Land, a 3-0 winner over Ninety Six on Tuesday, on Saturday at Gilbert High School at 1:30 p.m.

Academic Magnet coach Jason Hamil could only shake his head as his team was denied the chance to defend its state championship.

Hamil, like most coaches, isn’t in favor of deciding games by penalty kicks.

“You have to decide it sooner or later, and I don’t know how long that game would have lasted. We could have gone from one overtime to another overtime to another overtime. Who knows how it would have gone?”

And who knows who would have won?

Academic Magnet had a chance for a goal near the 100th minute when a Raptors player beat Rogers. But his shot bounced off the post. Bishop England had three rapid-fire shots from inside 5 yards in the 102nd minute, but the shots were either blocked by Raptors keeper Brady Allardice or bounced off the post.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Hamil said. “Sometimes those shots go a half of an inch inside the goal or sometimes they can go a half of an inch outside the goal.”

Bishop England is one of the most successful programs in the state. But the Bishops were knocked out of the playoffs early last spring. It marked the first time in 16 years the Bishops didn’t qualify for the state championship.

Coach Ed Khouri knows the soccer gods can be finicky in big games.

“That was a fantastic team,” Khouri said of Academic Magnet. “They are put together very well and have an excellent coach. Again, we’re talking about (soccer), and anything can happen. If things don’t fall your way, you lose. Both teams had their chances, but it didn’t happen. But the game of soccer is bigger than us. It humbles us. That’s why soccer is the greatest sport in the world.”

The Bishop England vs. Academic Magnet rivalry has produced many thrilling showdowns since the Bishops beat the Raptors, 1-0, in the 2011 Lower State championship.

Last year, the teams split. The Bishops won, 1-0, while Academic Magnet won, 3-2, in two overtimes.

This season, Academic Magnet won both of the regular season games, 3-2, and 3-2 in a 7-6 penalty-kick shootout.

But the Bishops won Tuesday and will go after their 16th state title, which would be the most in state history.

“Tonight was all about effort,” said Bishops keeper Rogers, who came up big in the PK phase. “We brought it all together tonight. There are no guarantees. It’s all about effort. If you bring it, you will win.”

Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil