COLUMBIA — Put two area rivals in a competition for a state championship and one should expect high intensity.
Such was the case Saturday night when Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep traveled 90 minutes up I-26 to decide the SCISA Class AAA boys soccer championship.
Eighty minutes was not enough to settle the score. In fact, 100 minutes was not enough time to decide a winner, so the two teams kept playing.
Finally, with less than two minutes remaining in a sudden death five-minute period, George Grice unleashed a shot from 30 yards out that sailed into the back of the goal, clinching a 2-1 win and a state title for the Cyclones.
“An incredible ending to an incredible match and incredible season,” said Cyclones coach Jeff Hoerner. “Honestly, when this season began, I was hoping to be competitive and make the playoffs. What these kids did together was really amazing. The chemistry on this team, and their willingness to sacrifice and believe in the system is the reason we’re celebrating tonight. I’m so proud of this group of guys.”
Porter-Gaud completes the season with a 25-3-1 record, far exceeding the goals of their coach. And, after losing to Pinewood Prep 10 straight times with Hoerner as coach, the Cyclones beat the perennial state powers twice in three meetings this season, all by 2-1 scores.
Pinewood Prep played its second marathon match in three days, needing to go all the way to penalty kicks to knock off defending state champion Cardinal Newman on Thursday.
“Maybe we were a little tired, but that’s no excuse really,” said coach Enrique Rodriguez. “I think we were conditioned well. We really had our chances. I thought we dominated play in the second half, but the ball has to go in the goal. We just couldn’t finish a few times and they did. But it was a great championship match. Both teams played very hard.”
The Cyclones put the lone goal of the first half on the board 14 minutes into the match. Brock Richardson took a pass on the left side from Frank Dougherty, settled the ball with a move to the center and blistered a shot past Pinewood Prep keeper Ryan Moore for a 1-0 lead.
Pinewood played with more urgency to open the second half, pushing the ball forward deep into the Porter-Gaud end of the field for most of the first 10 minutes.
That effort was rewarded with 29:39 left in the match on Thomas Ferro’s header in the corner of the net off a cross from Jin Kim.
Two minutes later, Kim was just high on a shot in front of the goal. With a little over 14 minutes remaining, Porter-Gaud keeper Robert Scott made a leaping save of Jake Wall’s long, high lob just in front of the goal line.
Porter-Gaud’s Hunter Mitchell had an open shot from 15 yards out, but Moore made a diving save and punch-out with 11:15 left in the match.
Two minutes later, Kim delivered a high corner kick that bounced off the head of Max Jaskewich and bounced off the cross bar and over the goal.