Win No. 600 would not come easy for Irmo boys soccer coach Phil Savitz.
Visiting rival Lexington on Tuesday, Irmo scored a 2-1 victory, pushing Savitz’s career record to 600-76.
“Honestly, the only thing I thought about is trying to beat Lexington,” Savitz said.
The Yellow Jackets entered the game on a five-win streak, while a highly motivated Lexington squad was looking to curb a four-loss skid. But the Irmo victory was far from certain.
“We gave them our best game tonight,” Wildcats coach Will Gettys said. “I’m proud of the way we played against them tonight.”
Irmo (6-0) led briefly in the first half, but the game was tied 1-1 for 52 minutes as both defenses battled.
“They had a dangerous attack and Jacob Parker made some strong saves,” Gettys said. “It looked like a matter of time with them and the shots they kept putting up. They were going to get another one in there.”
With 13 minutes to go, Irmo forged ahead when senior Connor Dunbaker beat the last defender in the box and scored on a header into the near post.
The Wildcats (1-6) attacked early, putting a shot on goal in the first minute of play.
“We had a lot of chances early and just didn’t finish,” Gettys said.
The Yellow Jackets used aggressive defense to diffuse the Wildcats’ attacks, while on offense Irmo’s two corner kicks in a two-minute span put pressure on the Wildcats’ defense. Lexington had trouble clearing the ball from in front of the box, and when the Yellow Jackets put in a shot behind Jacob Parton, only the quick reflexes of a Wildcat defender kept Lexington from falling behind.
In the 14th minute, Matt Manter put the Yellow Jackets on the board with a crossing shot from the left side of the box.
The Yellow Jackets’ lead was shortlived as, at the other end of the field, Manter received a yellow card that set Lexington up with an indirect kick. Wildcats senior Dean Smith knocked the shot into the back corner post to knot the score in the 15th minute.
By halftime, the score remained tied 1-1.
“We are a better finishing team than we showed tonight,” Savitz said.
Savitz was not about to revel in his victory.
“It’s exciting and heartwarming that this is so important to so many people,” said Savitz, in his 33rd season at Irmo. “This isn’t about coach Savitz, it really is about this point in the season and going for 601, winning our seventh game of the season.”
The Wildcats are shooting for a special goal this season as well. Lexington is aiming to score 100 goals this season as part of its season-long campaign for Cats Kick Cancer. Sponsors are donating money for each goal scored to Childrens’ Cancer, and with Tuesday nights’ goal, the Wildcats’ season total stands at 19.
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419