River Bluff coaches, players celebrate winning first state title
The River Bluff boys’ soccer team and coach Phil Savitz got the storybook ended they wanted.
The Gators scored four goals in the first half on their way to a 5-0 win over Clover on Saturday in the Class 4A boys’ championship at Irmo’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
The victory clinched River Bluff’s first state soccer title and just the second team championship in the three-year history of the school. The Gators won a competitive cheer championship in 2013.
The win also gave Savitz, the state’s all-time winningest coach, his 15th state championship and 700th victory, doing it at the place where he earned most of those victories. The former South Carolina assistant won 634 games and 14 state championships at Irmo in 33 seasons before leaving to take over the River Bluff program when it began in 2013.
“It is almost surreal to look around and to see how many games I have coached here and how many big games I have coached here in this stadium,” Savitz said. “And to take this program that came close two years in a row back here was a little bit Hollywood I say.”
Savitz’s players said they wanted to reward their coach and their actions backed that up. With the game in hand, the players poured Gatorade over their coach and the big throng of River Bluff students stormed the field to congratulate the team.
“It’s bit of a fairy tale,” senior Connor Deany said. “Savitz deserved this so much. We work hard every single day, getting up at 6 a.m. and going late after school. It was all worth it for Savitz. We had three years of hard for this team and it finally paid off.”
Savitz said it was his team’s best offensive effort of the postseason and the Gators were in attack mode from the beginning.
Deany got River Bluff started when he scored in the game’s fifth minute to make it 1-0. The Gators scored three more times in a 15-minute span later in the half to make it 4-0. Sean O’Hara and Connor Slattery had goals during that stretch and the Gators scored on an own goal. Dean and Justin Salters each had assists.
Hampton Scott made it 5-0 with a goal in the 55th minute.
Clover ends the season 19-7-1 and was making its first appearance in the state championship in coach Graham Stafford’s three seasons. But even Stafford conceded it was meant to Savitz and the Gators’ night.
“We ran into a buzz saw, we ran into Goliath,” Stafford said. “I thought the first goal was important. I thought if we could have held them off for 15 or 20 minutes it might have been easier to find a rhythm. Congrats to those guys. This was the Phil Savitz story tonight, 700 wins back here at Irmo. What the guy has done for high school sports is tremendous. Big respect to him and his program.
“Tonight was a tough one tonight but it has been a great season and lot to be proud of.”
Goals: Connor Deany, Hampton Scott, Sean O’Hara, Connor Slattery. Assists: Justin Salters, Connor Deany.