Dutch Fork and Lexington are surprise foes in the semifinal round of the Class 4A state boys soccer playoffs.
The Region 5-4A rivals square off for the third time this season Tuesday at DF stadium with a spot in Saturdays state title bout at Gilbert on the line, thus assuring a Midlands presence at the championship weekend after the area failed to produce a finalist for the first time in 18 years in 2012.
Dutch Fork was the regions No. 3 seed with Lexington at No. 4. As such, the Silver Foxes and Wildcats had to make their way along the postseason trail on the road.
The Silver Foxes (17-5-1) survived road tests at West Florence, Wando and Fort Dorchester to earn its first postseason home match. The Wildcats (16-9-1) claimed wins at South Florence, Beaufort at South Aiken to advance to the semifinals for the first time.
Both clubs scored major upsets along the way.
Dutch Fork toppled mighty Wando (undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally) in the second round by a 2-1 count.
Brenton Davis scored the game-winner in the 48th minute. Wando got on the board in the 8th minute, but that was the last ball to elude Silver Foxes keeper Kyle Brosius. Leading scorer Graham Jermstad tied it up at 1-1 with a tally in the 19th minute.
Davis decisive score was set up by a long through-ball. He slipped a shot under Warriors keeper John Milligan and into the net. Milligan raced out of the six-yard box to challenge the onrushing, unmarked Davis but mistimed his attempt at a diving save.
Not only was it Wandos first loss of the season, it was the first time all season the Warriors allowed more than one goal against. Moreover, it was the earliest playoff exit for the Lowcountry powerhouse in 24 years.
Lexington took out Region 5 champion South Aiken after being swept by the Thoroughbreds during the conference campaign. The Wildcats prevailed 2-1 in a match that was decided in a penalty-kick shootout.
Brett Smith tallied Lexingtons regulation goal late in the first half. South Aiken countered with about 21 minutes left in regulation.
After 20 minutes of extra play, it came down to PKs. Lexington went 4-for-5 with Smith, Adam Hicks, Luigi Malpartida and Alex Santoya converting. The T-Breds beat Wildcats keeper Jacob Parton on the first try, but that was it.
Meanwhile a few miles away, Irmo hosts Nation Ford in the other 4A semifinal. The Yellow Jackets have turned things around in the playoffs after losing four of their final five regular season matches. The Jackets are hoping to give veteran coach Phil Savitz a proper sendoff. Savitz is leaving Irmo to start up the program at new River Bluff High in Lexington.
If Irmo prevails, there will be an all-Midlands championship match for the first time since 2000 when Irmo defeated Ridge View 4-2 in the 4A finale.