Irmo coach Phil Savitz never saw the game-winner. Lexington coach Will Gettys couldn’t believe the cruel fate he just watched his team suffer.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Mattison Gossett’s penalty kick took an awkward bounce after goalkeeper Jacob Parton deflected the initial shot and trickled into the goal to give the Yellow Jackets their state-record tying 16th state championship after they won the penalty kick portion 4-3.
It sends legendary coach Savitz off a winner as he closed his 33-year run at the school with his 14th state championship and first since 2004. Irmo had lost in its past four appearances in state championship games before breaking the drought with the title win at Gilbert High.
Savitz takes over the program at first-year school River Bluff next season, but the parting gift he received was unforgettable.
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“I’m not sure I can describe it,” Savitz said. “It’s surreal because this wasn’t a team ranked No. 1 in the nation and undefeated and everybody was talking about. This was a team nobody was talking about. I’m enjoying this for the our fans that endured four straight losses in this championship. Everybody doubted this team, and nobody had faith in them. This will go down as one of my best coaching memories of all time.”
Gossett knew the naysayers were out there and he felt validation after the victory.
“We lost so many games this season and people doubted us,” Gossett said. “This team believed and always bounced back. We got here and we just won the 4A state championship. I’m so happy to bring this back to Irmo. It’s been too long.”
It certainly will go down as a classic between two teams that not many people expected to get this far. Irmo finished with a 17-8 record to tie the record for most losses in a season under Savitz. They came into the playoffs by losing their final three games and four of their final five before making the five-game run by allowing two goals.
Lexington (17-10-1) won four road games and avenged two losses each to region rivals South Aiken and Dutch Fork en route to its first state championship game appearance.
“I have 26 guys that nobody believed in when we started these playoffs as a four seed,” Gettys sais. “We’re here and this game could have gone either way. These guys deserve a lot of credit for believing. It’s incredibly disappointing to lose like this.”
Both teams saw scoring opportunities fall by the wayside in regulation and the four overtime periods. Irmo goalkeeper Hunter Wages and Parton were up for everything sent in their direction and the back lines were spectacular in keeping in it scoreless.
Each keeper had registered one save each on the first four penalty kicks when it came down to the final kick. Lexington’s Adam Yonge shot was deflected away by Wages to set the stage for the game-winner. Wages alos stopped the first shot of PK’s before getting the last final save.
“I knew I had to save them,” Wages said. “We’ve struggled all year and we knew we had to come up big sometime this year. This was the perfect time to do it.”
It looked as Parton had matched his counterpart again when he deflected Gossett’s shot. But the ball had a more unorthodox backspin than normal and as Parton laid on the ground to his right, the ball bounced in front of the goal before slowly rolling into the net to set off a wild celebration on the Yellow Jackets side.
Savitz paced behind his team at midfield, never looked at the shot and watched and waited for the reaction of his family in the stands.
“I don’t ever watch PK’s,” Savitz said. “I don’t like them, I don’t care for them. I will go back to see how we won. It’s just remarkable. This is most inexperienced, youngest team I’ve coached in 33 years. They don’t have the experience that so many of those previous teams that’s played for the state championship but they have heart, chemistry and they believe in each other. It’s an amazing group to be associated with. I’m just happy I had the opportunity to be with them.”
Gettys saw the shot go in and couldn’t believe the ending
“It was an incredibly exciting game and a terrible way to lose,” Gettys said. “That (final kick) was absolute bad luck. He saved it but it had a weird rotation on the ball but it somehow got in.”
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