GILBERT — While most of the traffic was exiting the parking lot outside Leonard Price Field late Friday night, there was one noticeable vehicle entering the Gilbert High School facility.
The Bishop England bus pulled up, and out stepped Ed Khouri, who wanted to inspect the pitch after a day of wear-and-tear.
The High School League changed venues for the state soccer championships, moving from Columbia’s Memorial Stadium. The Bishops soccer coach was concerned about the field’s dimensions as his team made final preparations for Saturday’s state championship against Indian Land.
“We wanted to get it into their craniums,” Khouri said. “We wanted them to be mentally ready.”
But the Bishops claimed the Class AA state championship because they had heart. On a long, hot day, just 96 hours after surviving Academic Magnet in penalty kicks, the Bishops still had something in their tank.
Freshman Joel Bunting, who scored the Bishops’ first goal earlier in the match, drilled home a goal with 19 seconds left in the second sudden-death overtime to give the Bishops a 4-3 victory over the Warriors.
“For us to bounce back after the Academic Magnet game speaks highly of this team’s character,” Khouri said. “That game took a lot of starch out of us. We, as coaches, had to get them back up mentally and physically. This was a big accomplishment for the Bishop England soccer program, and the class of 2013.”
Bunting is only a freshman, and could spend the rest of his soccer career trying to dupliacate his accomplishment that ended the match at the 1:09.41 mark.
“The ball ended up in front of me, and I kicked it,” said Bunting, who helped the Bishops claim their 16th state championship.
If only the game were that simple to dissect.
Indian Land led 2-0 just 12 minutes into the match on goals from Nick Retter and Garrett Gerdes.
In the 13th minute, Bunting scored and brought the Bishops back to life. That is when it got interesting.
Captain Mateo Gomez scored two goals in 94 seconds to give the Bishops a 3-2 lead in the 24th minute. But the Warriors countered with a goal 61 seconds later when Anthony Cutrone found the back of the net to tie the game heading into halftime at 3.
“It was a tale of two halves. That’s the complexity of soccer,” Khouri said. “You have to believe in yourself, believe you can score that goal even if it is in the final seconds. It can happen. That’s why soccer is the greatest sport in the world.”
SATURDAY’S OTHER BOYS STATE SOCCER CHAMPIONS:
Class AAAA: Irmo
Class AAA: Hilton Head
Class A: St. Joseph’s