Luis Arredondo’s goal in the 58th minute lifted fourth-ranked Irmo to a 1-0 victory over No. 6 Blythewood in Tuesday’s frigid Region 4-3A boys soccer opener.
The defending state champion Yellow Jackets, who are operating under new management for the first time in 34 years, stand at 7-1 overall and have been living on the edge with a parade of nail-biting games.
“We haven’t played our best soccer yet, but we are finding ways to win,” said Matt Brophy who is replacing legendary Jackets coach Phil Savitz who is plying his trade at first-year River Bluff.
Indeed, Irmo (7-1) has had two wins by two-goal margins, but the rest have been secured by a single goal. Last Friday, the Jackets rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie Lexington in regulation and eventually prevailed in a penalty-kick shootout in a rematch of last season’s Class 4A championship match – which also was decided by PKs.
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Arredondo’s tally, which was set up by a strong rush through the middle of the Blythewood defense by Caleb Jenkins, allowed the Yellow Jackets to avoid overtime.
But the score did not end the drama.
The host Bengals (6-2, 0-1) scored the apparent equalizer in the 59th minute on a shot by Cody Turner that eluded Irmo keeper Hunter Wages, but the goal was waved off when the referee ruled that Turner pushed off a defender to get free for the launch.
Neither team created many scoring chances in the first half, but that changed after the break.
Blythewood had two excellent opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Wages stopped two close-in shots by Dillon Garcia and Andrew Nienhuis in a furious flurry in the box and a later shot by Dillon Wood sailed wide.
Now it was time for Irmo to turn up the heat, but the Jackets were either denied by Bengals acrobatic sophomore keeper Liam Murphy or they simply misfired.
Murphy made two leaping saves on bending free kicks by Irmo’s Temi Adesodun and on another occasion made a great reaction save on a bullet from point blank range by Adesodun.
Jenkins had Murphy beat with a rocket shot from the top of the box off a centering pass by Arredondo, only to see the blast hit the crossbar.
The rematch on April 4 at Irmo figures to be just as compelling.