COLUMBIA — Northwood Academy has developed a solid winning reputation in several sports, but boys soccer has been a program on the outside looking in when it comes to competing for state championships.
That all changed on Saturday afternoon as the Chargers won the SCISA Class AA-A state championship, defeating Oakbrook Prep, 2-1, at Stone Stadium. The Chargers wrap up the campaign with a 19-5 record, best in school history.
Senior Brandon Harrison scored two first-half goals and keeper Alex McMeekin survived a late barrage of shots as the Knights tried to force a tie.
“When I took over six years ago, the program was struggling but we always knew we had potential,” said coach David Harrison. “The last three years we lost 2-1 in the semifinals to the eventual state champion, so we felt we were making progress and getting close.
“This year we made our minds up that we were going to take it. We played some really tough teams in the playoffs, and that team we just played was very good. I just think we were destined to win this thing today.
“We are so successful in other sports but today it was our turn to join all the other great athletic programs at Northwood Academy and claim a championship of our own.”
Harrison got the Chargers on the board in the ninth minute of play, pummeling a free kick from 40 yards out into the back of the net.
Harrison’s nifty footwork led to a second goal midway through the half. Harrison beat the defender to the ball near the end line, dribbled free and sliced a shot in between the keeper and the post from the right side. The ball deflected off the keeper into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Harrison finished the season with a school-record 41 goals and is the school’s all-time leading goal scorer.
“He had a special year and he’s a special kid,” said coach and father. “I’m so happy that I could enjoy this with him. It’s sad that it’s over but it sure ended about as well as we could have hoped.”
Oakbrook increased the offensive pressure over the final 20 minutes as Northwood opted to play more defensive down the stretch. Oakbrook peppered McMeekin with several shots before finally breaking through with 10 minutes left in the match. Oakbrook’s Force Coleman delivered a high corner kick that was headed in by Michael McGetrick, trimming the margin to 2-1.
“We felt like with a two goal lead we could not lose,” said Harrison. “We ran them good early and I kind of felt they were losing their legs a bit. At the worst, they maybe tie the match but I think we were stronger and would have won in overtime.”
Oakbrook (13-2) had three more solid looks on goal in the waning minutes by McMeekin deflected or saved every attempt.