When it became clear all-state goalkeeper Greg DeMare was not going to play in Chapin’s first-round playoff game because of a shoulder injury, the team did not fret.
His backup is just as good.
Senior Haze Weinspach spent the season playing forward and midfield, but he is also one of the state’s best goalkeepers.
As the Eagles prepare to face Riverside in the Class 3A championship Saturday at USC’s Stone Stadium, having two strong goalkeepers provides an extra shot of confidence.
“Most teams struggle to find one good goalkeeper, where we for the past four years have been blessed with two goalkeepers who are all-state caliber,” said Chapin coach Dick Hiller, whose team is appearing in the state final for the first time since 2005. “To win championships, you have to have a certain kind of leadership, of seeing the whole field and knowing what’s going on, and without a doubt, both of them provide that for us.”
Until this season, DeMare and Weinspach each played one half in goal, with Weinspach getting the start and spending the second half at forward or midfield.
This year, DeMare was the full-time keeper.
“Greg has really pushed himself; he’s grown and he has made strides for us,” Hiller said.
DeMare said working with Weinspach fostered his development.
“When we started off as freshmen, Haze was a really good keeper, and I took a lot of my cues from him,” DeMare said.
Weinspach said he enjoys being in the middle of the action. Still, when called upon to man the goal, he has no problem.
Against Timberland in the first round, Weinspach helped the Eagles pitch their seventh shutout of the season.
“I enjoy playing goalie, too,” he said. “Really, I just want to be out there on the field, doing whatever I can do to help my team win.”
For Weinspach this season, that has meant controlling the ball and organizing the Eagles’ attack.
“The team in front of me, including Haze, has been amazing all year, putting up a lot of offense and keeping play at the other end. They make my job easier,” DeMare said. “So when the ball comes my way, I just try to do my job, to keep it out of the net, and make their job easier, too.”
Twice this season, DeMare has secured Chapin victories in the penalty-kicks phase, the only times he has felt the outcome of the game was on his shoulders.
“When it goes into overtime, you get nervous. When it gets to penalty kicks, you go numb,” he said.
Better than anyone else on the team, Weinspach understands.
“Being the goalie is a tough job, but Greg does it very well, and I appreciate that. We all do, because a lot of times he saves us,” he said. “That’s why I don’t mind helping out in goal, because I know how important (the position is).”
Behind the goalies’ efforts, Chapin (22-3) has barreled through the season, including victories in two highly emotional playoff games.
In the second round, the Eagles faced Socastee, whom they lost to in a Lower State match-up last season.
In a semifinal, Chapin met region rival Brookland-Cayce for the third time this season and fought to a 2-1 win in penalty kicks.
“For both of those games, we got up and were excited, and winning them, we feel like our momentum will continue to roll,” Weinspach said. “We’re just ready for whatever.”
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.