Wando 4, Beaufort 3
MOUNT PLEASANT -- When the final whistle blew Tuesday night, Wando players rushed the fence surrounding the field to celebrate with their classmates. Together, they partied like it was 2002.
That was the last time the Wando High School boys soccer team made the state championship game. In each of the last six years, the Warriors lost in the Class AAAA Lower State finals, one win away from a title shot.
All of that was relegated to history Tuesday, as sophomore forward Hamilton Carlin scored two second-half goals to lift Wando to a 4-3 victory over Beaufort before about 1,000 fans at Wando Stadium.
Years of frustration were wiped away for coach Shilo Tisdale and seniors such as all-state forward Brandon Burkholder, who scored Wando's first goal in the second minute of play.
"Oh my gosh, it's just spectacular," said Burkholder, a Clemson signee who has scored 32 goals this season. "Every single year, it was just the worst disappointment to go out with a loss.
"I know we've got one more game, but that felt great."
On Saturday in Columbia, the third-ranked Warriors (25-4) will take on top-ranked Irmo, a 2-1 winner over J.L. Mann in the Upper State final. Irmo (24-0) defeated Wando in the Lower State finals the last two years before moving to the Upper State this season, and has won 15 state titles, the last in 2004.
"Personally, I know we would be the underdog, but I want to play Irmo," Burkholder said. "I want to beat the best. Every year, everyone talks about Irmo, Spring Valley, Northwestern. I want to show them that Wando is the real deal."
Tisdale, in his fifth year at Wando, doesn't want his players to be satisfied with making the state finals.
"This is new territory for all of us," he said. "Hopefully, they are not complacent and satisfied with that. There is one more game, and our ultimate goal is to win the state championship. This isn't good enough, and they know it."
Wando, which split two matches with Beaufort (19-4-2) during the regular season, seemed to have things in control when Burkholder scored in the second minute, on an assist from Erik Clark, and senior forward Dustin Bailey in the 12th for a quick 2-0 lead.
But the Eagles fought back with goals by Christian Faale and Andrew Settlemire to forge a 2-2 tie at the half, despite a 17-7 edge in shots for Wando.
Carlin muscled aside a Beaufort defender and scored in the 56th minute for a 3-2 lead, but nerves were taut after Settlemire's free kick took a bad hop and skipped past the Wando keeper for a 3-3 tie with only five minutes left in regulation.
Just a minute later, junior midfielder Zach North lofted a pretty pass to the front of the goal, where Carlin got his head on it for his 10th goal of the season and fifth of the playoffs.
"He's a tremendous young talent," Burkholder said. "He's big and fast, knows how to get the ball and scores goals like crazy."
Wando 4, Beaufort 3
Goals: Wando--Hamilton Carlin 2, Brandon Burkholder, Dustin Bailey. Beaufort--Andrew Settlemire 2, Chrisitan Faale. Records: Wando 25-4, Beaufort 19-4-2.