Perennial boys soccer powerhouse Irmo may not win its state record 17th AAAA state championship this season, but the Yellow Jackets looked every bit the title contender in dismantling Fort Dorchester, 6-2, in the second round of the Lower State AAAA playoffs on Thursday night.
A wet, sloppy field had no effect on the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets, who improved to 20-2-3 on the season. Irmo scored four first-half goals and cruised to the victory.
Irmo will visit Wando, a 3-2 winner over South Aiken, on Saturday night in the Lower State semifinals.
“They’re one of the most storied programs in the state,” said Fort Dorchester coach Chris Jones. “We knew it was going to be a fight. We actually had a good game plan, a good strategy. We did our homework and we started off well.
“That first goal was really unfortunate. We climbed back and got that goal back and I could feel the energy. We just couldn’t sustain it. We needed a perfect game and we needed them to get frustrated and it just didn’t work out that way.”
Irmo took a 1-0 lead on Preston Graczyk’s goal after a mad scramble for a loose ball in front of the goal. Five minutes later, however, Fort Dorchester’s Brandon Bozeman tied the game with a beautiful left foot shot from 15 yards out.
Whatever momentum gained by the tying goal was quickly reversed as Irmo’s Chase Graham scored three minutes after Bozeman’s goal, giving Irmo a 2-1 lead in the 22nd minute.
Two more scores gave Irmo a 4-1 lead at the half. The lead was 6-1 late when Fort Dorchester’s Matt Hardin found the net with under a minute remaining in the game.
Fort Dorchester finished the season at 8-9 overall, but their 6-2 record in Region 8-AAAA play notched the Patriots their third region title in four years — all under Jones’ leadership.
Jones says his work is just beginning and Thursday night’s game against the most successful program in state history can be a great motivator.
“For us, this was a great opportunity to see where we’re at as a program,” said Jones. “Now we know what the mark is. I’m really proud of this team. The way we finished got me excited about next year because we played to the end. We lost the game, but we can build on this experience for sure.”