Lexington High boys soccer was hoping to cap off its magical postseason run with its first state championship. Riverside’s quick-strike offense had other ideas.
The Warriors scored three goals in the first 18 minutes and defeated the Wildcats 4-0 on Friday to win the Class 5A state championship at Irmo High School.
It’s the Warriors’ first championship since 2008 and 13th overall.
Shortly after the loss, Lexington coach Will Gettys reflected on the final weeks of the season and playoffs was like and the memories he will take with him this year.
Two weeks ago, Lexington didn’t know if it was going to make the postseason. The Wildcats needed Chapin to beat River Bluff on April 29, the final day of the regular season, to make the playoffs.
Once in the playoffs, the Wildcats won three games — including beating region champion Chapin to advance to their championship game — and put together a season the program will remember forever.
A large pro-Lexington crowd showed up Friday at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
“I am going to remember the journey that they took us on,” Gettys said. “They took me, their parents and all of our fans on a wild ride. It was fun in every step of the way until this point. Just great memories and great kids. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Like Lexington, Riverside’s postseason journey came with some surprise. The Warriors, runners-up in Region 2-5A, defeated No. 1 seeds Clover, J.L. Mann and Dorman all on the road to make it to the championship.
“As soon as we stepped on Clover’s field (in the first round), we knew what we had to do. We knew we were the underdogs in the state and no one took us seriously,” Riverside coach Todd Lea said. “We had to show everyone what we are capable of.”
Four different Warrior players scored goals, started by Fabian Menendez’s in the fourth minute. Jack Wagoner and Codrin Robu added goals two minutes apart to put Riverside up 3-0 in the 18th minute. Kwame Andre added another goal to make it 4-0 in the 32nd minute.
Lea said Friday’s start was similar to the one against Clover in the first round when the Warriors scored four times in the first half. He thought Irmo’s field, which is flat and on turf, suited his team’s athleticism. It showed especially in the first half.
“This team is built for a big pitch,” Pettit said. “When you put balls in the corner, they are able to run on to them. A lot of fields are crowned and narrow and the ball rolls off and you don’t get to use the speed we have up front. We have some horses and quality starters, and our backups come in and give us quality minutes.
“That was our game plan: Toss balls up top and let the horses do the work.”
Gettys thought his team might have been shell-shocked a bit by Riverside’s quick start and said his team settled down in the second half. Lexington created better opportunities in the second half but missed out on a few opportunities to end the shutout and get back in the match.
“I told our team at halftime to come out and play with pride and give everything they had in the second half,” Gettys said. ‘I think we got to hold our heads up high with the effort we put up in the second half.”
SC soccer championship scores, schedule
All games at Irmo High School
Class A Girls: St. Joseph’s 3, Southside Christian 0
Class 2A Boys: Christ Church 2, Andrew Jackson 0
Class A Boys: Southside Christian 2, Palmetto Scholars 1
Class 5A Girls: Wando 2, JL Mann 1 (OT)
Class 5A Boys: Riverside 4, Lexington 0
Class 3A Girls: Daniel vs. Oceanside Collegiate, 10 a.m.
Class 3A Boys: Brookland-Cayce vs. Daniel, 1 p.m.
Class 4A Girls: James Island vs. Catawba Ridge, 4 p.m.
Class 4A Boys: James Island vs. Eastside, 7:30 p.m.