Despite losing several key starters from last year’s state championship team, the Northwood Academy boys soccer team is one win away from repeating as SCISA Class AA state champions.
Standing in the way is The King’s Academy of Florence, which boasts a 17-1 record. The state championship will be decided on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Patriots Point Soccer Stadium
Northwood (19-5) is coming off a 2-0 win at Oakbrook Prep in Spartanburg on Wednesday night, a rematch of the state title game last season. Oakbrook entered the game with one loss and was the top-seeded team in the tournament.
The Chargers faced adversity before the game, showing up 25 minutes before the start due to a blown bus tire on I-26.
“We overcame quite a bit, but our guys never flinched,” said coach David Harrison. “We were able to get an early goal, and we really relaxed and played our game. It was a huge victory for us, but our guys know we have one more to go.”
Northwood’s title run last season was the first in school history and Harrison graduated three all-state players from that team, including his son, Brandon Harrison, the team’s leading scorer.
This year’s team has a mixture of veteran leadership and talented youth and the coach says it took some time for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.
“We had some players coming back, but we moved all but one to a new position so we had some growing pains in terms of our chemistry early on,” said Harrison. “That first month or so, we were trying to figure out the right combinations. As the season went along, we started playing better together. Right now, we’re peaking and gelling as a team.”
Pinewood Prep will battle top-ranked Cardinal Newman for the AAA boys title at noon Saturday. The two are annual contenders for the state title and each was a No. 1 seed in their respective playoff brackets. This will mark Pinewood’s 10th straight championship game appearance.
Pinewood has only three losses heading into the finals, including losses to Wando, AA power Academic Magnet, and SCISA AAA semifinalist Porter-Gaud. The Panthers rely heavily on a strong defense, having allowed only eight goals all season with 12 shutouts.
The Porter-Gaud girls team will play for the AAA title on Saturday against Heathwood Hall. The Cyclones improved to 18-2 with Thursday night’s 4-2 win over defending state champion Cardinal Newman, avenging a loss in last year’s state title match.
“Getting back to the finals is a special thing for our 11 seniors so we are really excited about the opportunity,” said coach Daniel Jordan. “We know we have a huge challenge, regardless of who we play, but we also remember how we felt at the end of last year’s state championship match. We will give our best effort of the season.”