Raptors’ delight: Academic Magnet captures boys state soccer title

Mark Morgan / Special to The Post and Courier Academic Magnet's Ethan Hanson (left) battles Indian Land's Will Medlock for the ball.

COLUMBIA — When asked earlier in the week about his goalkeeping situation heading into Saturday’s Class AA championship game, the response from ninth-year Academic Magnet boys soccer coach Jason Hamil was calm and confident: “We’re going to put Chris Abraham in there and ride him.”

And that’s exactly what the Raptors did — with some help on the offensive side.

Filling in during starting netminder Brady Allardice’s red-card suspension, the senior defender with limited goalkeeping experience kept Indian Land (21-5) off the scoreboard while his squad’s attacking players found success at the opposite end of the field.

Academic Magnet (22-2) claimed its first-ever Class AA boys’ soccer championship as a result, defeating the Warriors, 5-0, at Memorial Stadium.

“I’ve been chasing that moment right there,” said Hamil, whose squad fell short in each of its four appearances in the Class A title contest by one goal. “We finally had the team and the season, and everything just kind of came together for us.”

The game started quickly, as just 10 seconds after the opening whistle, Indian Land forward Will Medlock headed a cross just wide of an open net.

It served as a wake-up call for the Raptors, who broke through shortly thereafter in the ninth minute.

Junior midfielder Mack Koewler served a pinpoint cross to the head of Davis Michaelsen, who made no mistake from eight yards out. It was the senior forward’s 19th goal of the season.

“He’s been kind of streaky this year, but in the biggest moment in the biggest game, a four-year starter like he is stepped up and hammered home the goal that really set the tone,” Hamil said.

The 29th minute featured an ironic twist.

In similar fashion to Allardice’s red-card infraction in Tuesday’s Lower State championship game, Abraham charged out from the net with two Warriors closing in and picked up the ball just outside of the 18-yard box. Unlike Allardice, however, Abraham received only a yellow card.

While the senior was forced off the field until the next substitution opportunity, the ensuing free kick sailed narrowly wide left.

Matt Houle gave Academic Magnet a 2-0 lead shortly before halftime when he slotted Nat Edwards’ through-ball past Indian Land goalkeeper Trevor Hoxworth. Jonathan Glenn doubled the cushion in the second half with a pair of goals in a 23-second span, giving the junior forward a team-high 34 on the season.

“We talked at halftime about championship pedigrees and legacy games,” Hamil said. “And we really emphasized getting that third goal before they got one. I think the biggest impact was getting that third goal, and then obviously we put the fourth one in right after that.”

Houle capped the scoring in the 69th minute with his second strike of the contest.

Nick Outen, the Warriors’ 47-goal scorer, was kept in check as the Raptors outshot Indian Land by a 23-5 margin. Fifteen of Academic Magnet’s attempts were on frame.

“That was all you could ask for,” Michaelsen said of the championship victory.

“That’s the way we wanted to win. We worked hard as a team all year. We took down some big teams, we had some big wins, only two losses, and that was just a fantastic to end this way.”