Wando boys survive Raptors in penalty kicks

Academic Magnet’s Bailey Kirkland (left) and Wando’s Lucio Vaccaro fight for a loose ball during the Warriors’ victory on Thursday.

Wade Spees

The Wando Warriors, the No. 1 boys soccer team in the nation, state and Lowcountry, completed the regular season with a perfect record. But the Warriors’ 21st victory of the season wasn’t easy.

Wando and Academic Magnet were scoreless after two five-minute overtimes, and the Warriors prevailed 5-3 in the penalty-kick.

“Like I discussed with the guys, it was a Lower State, state final atmosphere,” Wando coach Shilo Tisdale said. “It was an incredible match. They fight, fight, fight and had to be dragged off the field. Both teams gave it their all.”

Both teams made their first three PK attempts. Wando’s Charlie Heffron made it 4-3, and that’s when keeper John Milligan stepped up. He deflected Raptors’ Matt Houle’s attempt, and Boone Seagle sealed the victory with a goal.

The Wando program is impressive any way you crunch the numbers. The Warriors have 637 victories since the High School League sanctioned the sport in time for the 1975-76 academic year, and have won 83 percent of their matches. If that isn’t enough, the Warriors have played in nine Class AAAA state championships, winning the title five times, most recently in 2011 when the Warriors had a 26-4 record.

Still, perfect seasons are rare in Mount Pleasant. This season’s 21-0 record marks the first time since 2003 that the Warriors were undefeated. Wando was 19-0 in the 2003 regular season under coach Tom Reilly, but lost to Irmo in the Lower State championship.

Coach Shilo Tisdale, in his seventh year as coach, knows perfection doesn’t always translate to the big prize in postseason success.

“The guys took it game-by-game and didn’t look ahead,” said Tisdale, who has led his team to six straight Lower State championships. “They didn’t look ahead. This is what can happen when you focus on the task at hand. We have to take it one at a time for the rest of the way.”

Thursday’s victory, in front of approximately 500 fans at Wando Stadium, marked the 10th time the Warriors blanked a foe in regulation this season. Keepers John Milligan, Collin Lemmon, Nick Winch and the rest of the defense have allowed only 11 goals this season

Academic Magnet is also highly successful as coach Jason Hamil continues to build the program into one of the best in the state, regardless of classification. The Raptors are defending state champs in Class AA, and are No. 1 in the latest statewide poll of Class AA schools.